University bolsters funding for Counseling and Psychological Services

February 17, 2017

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – As part of Penn State’s ongoing commitment to students’ mental health, University President Eric Barron announced $705,000 in new funding for Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) on Feb. 16.

“CAPS provides critical services to our students on a daily basis, helping them to manage a range of personal concerns and mental health challenges. Students, parents, faculty, staff and other stakeholders value the services that CAPS provides. As a result of the dramatic increase in utilization of CAPS over the past ten years, it has become increasingly difficult to meet the demand for mental health  services,” said Ben Locke, senior director of CAPS. The additional funds provided by President Barron and the newly approved student fee will dramatically improve our ability to meet student’s needs across all Penn State campuses for years to come.”

Locke continued, “Penn State is definitely not alone in addressing these challenges. The Center for Collegiate Mental Health, in its 2015 annual report, reported that counseling centers nationally have experienced an average 30 percent increase in student use over the past five years.”

More than 3,900 students sought assistance from CAPS in 2015-16, an increase of 50 percent over the previous decade. Locke said many factors are driving this growing need, including the intense academic pressure felt by many students. National suicide prevention efforts, along with a growing level of awareness and a decreased stigma involving mental health concerns have also led students to seek help with issues, such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, sexual abuse and addiction, that may have gone unaddressed in the past.

The Office of the President will provide $365,000 in new funding for CAPS starting on July 1, and a $7 million endowment from corporate donations will provide an additional $315,000 annually starting July 1, 2018, Barron said. Another $25,000 from Penn State will be added to bring the total to $705,000 in new funding for CAPS.

The new funding for CAPS comes on the heels of the Class of 2016 gift, which established an endowment to support CAPS, and a $200,000 commitment by the Penn State Alumni Association to match the 2016 class gift.

A $50,000 gift commitment from Rodney and Michele “Mitch” Kirsch announced in February 2016 launched the Embedded Counselor Program, which positions a therapist in one of Penn State’s residence halls. Rodney Kirsch is the retired senior vice president for development and alumni relations at the University and Michele Kirsch is associate dean for student affairs in the Schreyer Honors College.

“These most recent contributions build on the foundation of long-term support for mental health services at Penn State by Vice Provost Nick Jones and Vice President for Student Affairs Damon Sims, who to have consistently sought to maintain and improve funding for mental health services at the University,” Locke said.

Barron’s announcement comes as the Student Fee Board approved a student mental health fee today (Feb. 17) proposed by CAPS and the University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA) to support CAPS programs across all Penn State campuses.

“We are very grateful for the president’s commitment to matching the University Park Student Fee Board’s contributions to Counseling and Psychological Services,” said UPUA President Terry Ford. “I would be out of place if I did not mention the long-standing commitment on behalf of the president and Vice President for Student Affairs Damon Sims to address this issue, long before the Student Fee Board managed to come up with a plan of its own.”

Dennis Heitzmann, CAPS’s long-time director and now senior director and special assistant to the vice president for Student Affairs, said, “This is wonderful news and an acknowledgment of years of effort involving many stakeholders. Having served as CAPS senior director for many years, it has been my privilege to observe a broad range of supporters of student mental health coming together over the past several years on behalf of Penn State students. The generosity of so many donors on and off campus, together with the vision and commitment of President Barron, Vice President Sims, CAPS Senior Director Ben Locke and many student leaders, will serve our students in perpetuity.”

CAPS provides assistance to thousands of students each year via services such as group therapy, individual counseling, crisis intervention and psychiatric services, as well as providing prevention, outreach and consultation services for the University community.

Last Updated September 23, 2020