Fenves announces CMHC counseling charges will be subsidized

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Photo Credit: Victoria Smith | Daily Texan Staff

UT President Gregory Fenves announced on Wednesday that the University will no longer charge students $10 per counseling appointment in the Counseling and Mental Health Center.

Psychiatry services will also be reduced from $15 to $10 per session, lowering to the same fee as other medical appointments. Both changes are subsidized through the University’s partnership with ESPN on the Longhorn Network.

This change comes after Fenves received feedback from students when a Daily Texan article last semester revealed that UT-Austin was one of the only top schools in Texas to charge students for counseling and mental health services.

“Last semester, I heard from many students about the charges for counseling appointments at the Counseling and Mental Health Center,” Fenves said in an email to the UT community. “I am concerned that these charges have been a barrier for students seeking needed care.”

Fenves also emphasized mental health should not be overlooked because it impacts students’ performances.

“This new investment in the Counseling and Mental Health Center underscores a university-wide commitment to addressing the mental health of students,” Fenves said in the email. “Your psychological well-being is an essential part of your success — both in academics and in life.”

CMHC director Chris Brownson said the charges for counseling services date back to seven years ago, when the University’s budgets were reduced because of an economic downturn. In 2010, the CMHC started to charge $5 per counseling appointments and the charges were raised to $10 in 2015.

Brownson said these fees were not a concern for the CMHC until the Texan article came out last fall, when students began voicing their concerns about CMHC charges.

“(Based on) our data over the last seven years … we did not see from a statistical standpoint that there was a decrease in our usage because of our charges,” Brownson said. “But when we started hearing stories that were coming up last semester (about) students who were not coming because of the charge … that’s when we started really looking a little further into this issue to see what can be done about that.”

The reduction in fees will not impact the quality of the work that the CMHC does, Brownson said.

“All of our services are staying exactly as they were before,” Brownson said. “We invest a lot of resources in making sure that students first come to us, that we have a counselor available to talk to them right away and help them get connected with the resources that they need.”

Bunmi Akindona, a psychology and sociology senior, said she is glad there are no longer any charges for counseling and mental health services because some students cannot afford $10 per appointment on top of all other expenses as a college student.

“Sometimes there are times that I can’t afford to go to the Counseling and Mental Health Center because I have to buy groceries,” Akindona said.

Akindona said this change is made possible through students’ voices and encourages students to speak up to bring change.

“This was a student-led change,” Akindona said. “Students do have a voice on campus, so if there’s something that you see that you feel like needs to be done, your voice can be heard.”