HARRISBURG, Pa. – HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College, would like to address misperceptions about its counseling services.
The mental health needs of students at HACC continue to be addressed as the institution examines and enhances its organizational structure, services, processes and procedures. Like most organizations in our community, this type of transformation is necessary for organizations to innovate and sustain themselves.
“At HACC, our first priority is our students. We know that they overcome challenges every day to make their dream of a college education a reality. Our primary job is to help them succeed academically,” said HACC President John J. “Ski” Sygielski, Ed.D.
The College has been discussing the reorganization of its counseling and advising supports since 2018 and is taking a long-term approach as to how to best serve its students.
As part of the reorganization, HACC decided to eliminate on-campus clinical mental health counseling and refer students who need assistance to appropriate local professionals and community resources. With limited resources, HACC is focusing on providing an excellent education for students and allowing other organizations that can provide specialized clinical mental health services to do so.
Therefore, faculty counselors were notified verbally on Sept. 11, 2019, of the College’s decision to eliminate their positions. After the 20 faculty counselor positions are eliminated in October 2020, the services they provide will be reassigned.
HACC is in discussions for providing clinical mental health services through a third party at low or no cost to students. In addition, services would include the option of online counseling, thus eliminating the need for students to travel.
Students have been and will continue to be informed individually about this transition when they are in need of clinical mental health services.
Crisis Services Remain Unchanged
HACC is referring students to expanded and more specialized options, but what has not changed is HACC’s protocol for addressing the needs of students who are in a crisis. Any student who expresses intent to harm themselves or others receives immediate help through HACC’s established crisis protocol that includes HACC’s security and student affairs employees. This protocol has been in place for several years. The safety of HACC’s students, employees and visitors is a priority.
HACC fully recognizes that many of our students live with serious challenges, including trauma; food and housing insecurity; and mental health concerns. HACC will not allow these students to suffer without offering the appropriate level of help.
With the reorganization, the College will continue its commitment to students by providing academic goal setting; career exploration; college and life balance; success skills development; and connections to community resources for food, shelter, transportation and clinical mental health services.
Academic Counseling Services Still Offered
Previously, if a faculty counselor determined that a student needed clinical mental health counseling, they would provide short-term services (one or two meetings) and then refer the student to an external professional or community resource.
In 2018-19, less than 1% of HACC’s student population of 17,000 received these short-term services. The overwhelming majority of the student population needs have been met with our comprehensive services.
As of mid-September 2019, faculty counselors no longer conduct clinical mental health meetings. Students are referred directly to resources by student affairs deans.
Other services previously provided by HACC faculty counselors have not changed. Faculty counselors continue to support students’ needs for goal setting; career counseling; time management; and balancing college and life demands. Likewise, faculty counselors and other HACC employees continue to connect students to local and community resources for food insecurity, housing needs, domestic violence situations and ongoing counseling support.
When necessary, the College will continue to facilitate connections to providers in our community who are well-equipped to handle a variety of concerns, including trauma and mental health concerns.
Demand for Online and Flexible Services
There has been an increase in demand for online services and flexible services that HACC students can access outside of regular office hours.
With the reorganization, external clinical mental health services could provide extended hours and, in some cases, offer 24/7 service. Such hours offer more of an “on-demand” option at times when students need it most – and when the College may be closed.
In addition, the availability of online external services fits well with the College’s growing population of online learners.
Fiscal and Operational Challenges
Over the past decade, HACC, like other colleges and universities across the commonwealth and nation, has seen a decline in our student enrollment, having a profound impact on its financial operations. During the same time period, for example, HACC has experienced a reduction in enrollment, a significant reduction in financial support from sponsoring school districts and very modest increases in state funding.
Faced with a deficit in HACC’s budget for 2019-20, the HACC Board of Trustees approved several measures to address the shortfall; remain fiscally sound; and continue to offer a high-quality, accessible education to its students.
The HACC Advantage
Students who attend HACC to further their postsecondary education and enhance career opportunities pay approximately 25% less than the average full-time tuition at nearby four-year institutions.
HACC’s strong brand identity and renowned high-quality education help students enter the workforce quickly; earn an associate degree, certificate or diploma; and save money while transferring credits to four-year institutions.
HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College, is the first and largest of Pennsylvania’s 14 community colleges. HACC offers approximately 100 career and transfer associate degree, certificate and diploma programs to approximately 19,000 students. Also, the College serves students at its Gettysburg, Harrisburg, Lancaster, Lebanon and York campuses; through virtual learning; and via workforce development and continuing education training. For more information on how HACC is uniquely YOURS, visit hacc.edu. Also, follow us on Twitter (@HACC_info), follow us on Instagram (@HACC_edu), like us on Facebook (Facebook.com/HACC64) and use #HACCNews.