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The past several years have been a challenge for higher education to navigate in the wake of a pandemic that upended the status quo. According to a study by the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO), colleges spent 4% more from their endowments in the first year of the coronavirus pandemic than the year prior, in large part to handle the disruptions, emergencies, and basic needs insecurities caused by COVID-19. A report found that federal emergency funds helped more than 18 million college students stay in school and cover the costs of basic needs. Emergency relief, available through Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds (HEERF), also helped colleges and universities subsidize the cost of additional mental health support for students, such as virtual care programs.
The need for telehealth and virtual care options
The pandemic highlighted the crucial role of technology in delivering student support services. And the continued shortage of mental health professionals across the U.S. has resulted in long wait times and gaps in care for college students.
Experts in virtual and hybrid care continue to show how digital health platforms are revolutionizing access to healthcare for those facing barriers to care, such as cost, transportation, and insurance. The American Medical Association has predicted that there will be greater efforts and investments to improve the usability of telehealth and to expand the number of people who can benefit from this technology. Telehealth continues to be a cost-effective, comprehensive solution to help overwhelmed campus counselors in optimizing resources while providing students greater access to the care they need.
A recent survey found that 64% of students say they are more likely to graduate if they have access to mental health resources, and access to virtual counseling and mental health support through a teletherapy or virtual care app is the number one resource students wish their schools offered.
Identifying funds for virtual health care
With an impact that can be felt in both enrollment and retention, student health and well-being plays a vital role in the success of higher education institutions. Virtual care programs and telehealth platforms help remove barriers to care, can offer 24/7 support, and can scale a diverse provider network as an extension of existing on-campus healthcare services. As you review virtual care partnerships and programs for your campus, consider the different ways to manage the cost of virtual medical and mental health resource programs for students.
If you’re considering telehealth services to support students’ health care needs, here are five funding resources to explore:
To support students of all ages across all school districts throughout their educational experience, state leaders may explore how to effectively use financial resources to provide or enhance physical and mental health services for students. For states that prioritize the health and well-being of higher education students, funds may be available for programs that directly impact student health or can positively affect retention and engagement. Virtual care programs like TimelyCare meet the requirements for funds that state legislation allocates for such purposes. Additionally, federal funds for student support initiatives may be distributed through states.
Some institutions may have funds allocated for healthcare resources, a student affairs budget, or funds that can be reallocated in the healthcare budget to support a virtual health and well-being program. Beyond these funds, college and university endowments or other institutional donations provide another potential source of funding for virtual care programs. While most new gifts to endowments at private and public schools are typically restricted for specific purposes, some gifts may be earmarked for student support services, healthcare, behavioral health, medical care, medical services, or mental health initiatives.
Endowed funds often support student financial aid and scholarships. But many students need more direct emergency assistance. Consider dedicating student emergency funds to help students who are struggling financially now. Then, the gifts made to these funds can be for current use, which means campus healthcare providers can use them immediately to help students.
Student health services fee
Day of giving
National giving day campaigns and awareness days (e.g., Mental Health Awareness Month) allow your college or university to engage students and alumni to donate to a variety of campus programs. Take advantage of these opportunities throughout the year to enable giving specifically to campus mental health programs.
Some federal agencies, private foundations, corporations, and associations in the U.S. want to support instructional projects, research, technology, and innovation. As you search funding sources for programs that provide student support services to improve college completion and academic success, consider keywords such as “strengthening institutional programs,” “institutional management,” “institutional improvement,” “student support services,” “institutional stability,” and “innovations to improve education outcomes.”
The Rural Health Information Hub is a trusted resource for researching telemedicine grants. You can filter options by topic, state, and active/inactive funding. An exhaustive list of grants, including opportunities from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) can also be found at grants.gov.
Hundreds of private foundations, corporations, and associations provide grant funding for student support services, and could support a comprehensive institutional grant program. Once you have an idea for a grant proposal to fund your program, match your objectives to those of a funding organization. Understanding the goals and requirements of the funding source will help you not only plan the proposal but ensure that it includes all of the information needed for review and serious consideration.
Funding virtual health care on your campus
The impact of investing in virtual care resources
As budgets tighten, higher education decision-makers and campus health professionals must look at how to best allocate resources. Virtual health care equips campuses with efficient, cost-effective access to care that complements existing campus health resources, and provides care for students when and where they need it.
Can your campus health center and counseling center meet students’ demand for care? As inflation, regulatory changes, and evolving technology create new challenges and opportunities for college and university health departments, virtual health care is a means to improve mental health support on your campus, while also reducing costs. A study of telehealth patients confirms telehealth can expand care while reducing costs. The study is only the latest in a growing body of evidence that shows one of the value propositions of telehealth for student experience is a cost reduction in conjunction with simultaneous growth in patient access to needed care and support systems.
Coupled with the virtual health care funding options above, your campus health care program can make an impact on students’:
- Access to care
- Campus engagement both in and out of the classroom
The result is a happier, healthier campus. Contact TimelyCare to explore identifying funding for a virtual well-being program.