Back to Resources

The Importance of Increasing Access to Student Support Services

By Trip Starkey, 8/24/2023

In a new publication – Driving Toward A Degree – from Tyton Partners and the Lumina Foundation, research from multiple large-scale surveys in the Spring of 2023 sought to explore the discrepancy between what students endorsed needing in terms of support services from their institution compared with what key stakeholders endorsed already providing to students. This research identifies a critical gap in support services that can ultimately impede student success and cause a decrease in utilization of critical campus supports that help students thrive during school. Namely that students want comprehensive support from their school, while finding themselves increasingly unaware of what campus services are already available to them.

This kind of research is critical in helping institutions ensure they are delivering quality support for students because, as the report summary notes, “resources such as academic advising, financial aid services, and mental health counseling can mean the difference between stopping out and graduating.” In multiple surveys of 2,000+ students and 1,700+ campus stakeholders, the report identified three areas of focus for institutions to improve on:

  1. Increase Awareness of Available Resources: The survey results show that, while nearly every institution identified services like academic or career advising as readily available to students, less than two thirds of students identified knowing that those services were available to them. Additionally, the report noted that, for students to even utilize services like academic advising, awareness was a “necessary condition” for engagement, though in most instances campuses are unable to effectively increase awareness of those services. Not only are students unaware of support like academic advising, when they schedule appointments with those specific services, they typically assume that advising will extend beyond academics to things like basic needs support, and are unaware that there are services better equipped on campus to support those needs.
  2. Foster A Sense of Belonging: According to the research summary, data shows that roughly 6 in 10 students know about all of the services available to them, leaving approximately a 40% gap in students who are largely unaware of support services that can help them find success during school. When students are unaware of services available to them, they are more likely to feel disconnected from their institution, isolated in their needs, and are more likely to stop out due to not getting the support they need. This gap not only highlights the importance of building student-campus trust that basic needs can be met, but also that students are endorsing wanting support relevant to their specific needs. The research shows that students ultimately want support from services that they “feel represent their lived experiences.” By delivering on this, institutions can help students feel as though they actually belong and can successfully exist within their campus ecosystem.
  3. Reinforce Campus Coordination With Resources: FInally, in order to seamlessly deliver on services that support the entire student experience, institutions have to deliver on integrating all areas of support into a cohesive framework that students can easily navigate. According to the report, the “lack of system integration hinders coordinated, holistic advising when providers lack access to shared data.” For institutions, it is important to take the approach of centralizing student support services in order to increase access to all supports available and better ensure that students are accessing the right services available to them based on their specific needs. The report highlights how essential “all-inclusive support services” are to the student experience, and how having academics, finances, basic needs, mental health, career services, and more can actually make the difference for students during school.

While the idea of implementing comprehensive support services is certainly not new for institutions of higher education, the truth is that the hurdles presented in the past few years have shown that students are more aware than ever of what they need to feel as though they can thrive in a college setting. In their digest of the research, authors at the Lumina Foundation suggest that in order to “effectively implement comprehensive support services,” colleges must make more of an exerted effort to “coordinate across departments and make sure students know where and how to get help.”

YOU at College has been on the forefront of developing and innovating solutions for institutions of higher education to:

  • Centralize Access to Campus Resources: Our tools act as the digital front door to all available campus support services, increasing awareness and streamlining access to those resources based on each individual student’s own personalized and self-endorsed areas of need. Our tailored digital experiences accomplish this through comprehensive, personalized support for every area of the student experience with the YOU for Students platform, and more recently through our crisis triage tool, HelpCompass that ensures students can seamlessly access the right door on campus for their unique needs.
  • Build Student-Campus Trust: By putting each institution’s campus identity front and center, both the YOU Platform and HelpCompass encourage awareness for support services, elevate comprehensive student support as a campus priority, and foster student-campus connections, which ultimately increase feelings of belonging for each student. In a 2023 survey of our student network, nearly 7 in 10 students endorsed that the YOU platform made them feel like whole student well-being was a priority for their campus, 79% of students took action with a campus resource through the YOU platform, and 73% of students believed that YOU supported their overall well-being. This type of campus trust is imperative for students to actually connect with the resources available to them and cultivate lasting, positive connections with their institutions to ensure success from first year through graduation.
  • Build Cohesive Cross-Departmental Support: While it’s easy for support services to feel siloed based on the specific department they’re housed in on campus, the truth is that every department plays a role in a student’s overall well-being and success. By centralizing support services, institutions can increase awareness of them, make them more readily available to all students, and ultimately bring the campus community together in a way that makes students feel supported through a cohesive, campus-wide framework. Not only that, but by increasing awareness of cross-departmental support, institutions can better connect students with the tools they actually need, which will help them achieve their goals, meet their needs, and foster feelings of connection to their campus. Investing in tools like the YOU platform and HelpCompass, which foster cross-departmental awareness and access, cultivates more cohesive campus communities, ensuring that coordinated support systems are elevated and streamlined to deliver a higher quality student experience.

What this research provides is an institutional roadmap for the types of tools and programming that can increase awareness and traffic to the entire campus ecosystem of support. Through its ability to bolster those services with a more comprehensive and robust approach to student well-being and success, The YOU at College solution suite is uniquely positioned to personalize support for every student, faculty, and staff member with comprehensive, upstream tools that streamline awareness and access to all support services. By implementing tools that take our centralized, digital approach, campuses are better equipped to support specific student needs, which allow institutions to create healthier, happier campus communities.

mental health
student success
student support
well-being tools