The Relationship Between Students’ Counseling Center Contact and Long-Term Educational Outcomes

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Abstract

Numerous studies have demonstrated that counseling centers deliver a positive impact on the emotional and social development of college students who receive services. These healthy outcomes, in turn, can lead to increased academic success, such as improved performance, retention, and persistence. While these short-term academic outcomes have been widely investigated, very few studies have explored the relationship between counseling center services and longer-term educational outcomes, such as final grade point average (GPA), time spent at the university, and degree completion. In the current study, counseling center usage, including appointments that were attended, cancelled, and no showed, as well as distal educational variables were examined within 2 cohorts of first-time full-time students over a 6-year period. Findings revealed that both users and nonusers of counseling center services spent a similar amount of time to degree completion and achieved comparable final semester GPAs as well. However, students who utilized counseling services graduated at a significantly lower rate (79.8%) than those who did not use services (86.2%) across the 6-year time span. Post hoc analyses indicated that among students who used counseling services, those who did not graduate scheduled significantly more services than those who graduated, suggesting that students who use the counseling center, and have more chronic and severe mental health problems, may be graduating at a lower rate. Implications are discussed.

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