Higher Education Community Calls on Congress to Support Student Mental Health and Wellbeing

Last week, CGS and a group of nearly 100 organizations sent a letter to Congress urging its support in addressing the mental and behavioral health needs of students in higher education. The letter states, “We have been heartened at the attention and urgency Congress has shown toward addressing significant mental health needs in America, as well as the bipartisan and bicameral interest in tackling this urgent problem. This is a critical opportunity to address the mental health crisis among college students that has been under addressed for too long and has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Better mental health is essential for students to persist in college, graduate, and become healthy and productive leaders and workers in our communities nationwide. To meet this moment, Congress should both invest in existing programs and reexamine ways that key legislation can support the mental health and basic needs of America’s college students.” Specifically, the letter urges Congress to increase the annual appropriation for the Garrett Lee Smith Campus Suicide Prevention Grant, in order to, provide additional mental health care services for postsecondary education students.

CGS also sent a letter to Congress urging them to make the mental health and wellbeing of graduate students and their families a high priority when developing mental health legislation. The letter says, “The nation’s graduate schools serve two important and distinctive roles in the mental health arena. First, graduate schools provide a refuge for graduate students and their families; a place where they can succeed academically and find the necessary resources and support to alleviate undue stress. Second, graduate schools educate and train the mental health professionals needed to provide health care services and support to the people in our communities.” See our latest report on graduate student mental health and well-being here.

Federal Agencies Increase Their Focus on Implementing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities

On his first day in office, President Biden signed Executive Order 13985 on “Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government.” In doing so, the President called for a total transformation of the government into an entity that centers the concerns of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) and underserved communities.

The Department of Energy recently released their new Equity Action Plan to put a spotlight on equity and justice. The five strategic goals within the plan include:

  • Addressing gaps in data collection to facilitate data-informed decision-making
  • Increasing opportunities for new applicants to DOE funding opportunities
  • Increasing participation in DOE R&D and financial assistance programs
  • Expanding strategic Tribal and stakeholder engagement across DOE programs
  • Improving access and equity in DOE’s Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP)

Last week 90 other federal agencies released their equity action plans, including the Department of Education. You can read more on the Biden Administration’s progress on equity within federal agencies here.

National Endowment for the Humanities Announces $33.17 Million for 245 Humanities Projects

Last week, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) announced $33.17 million in grants for 245 humanities projects across the country. NEH Chair Shelly C. Lowe said in a press release, “NEH is proud to support these exemplary education, media, preservation, research, and infrastructure projects. These 245 projects will expand the horizons of our knowledge of culture and history, lift-up humanities organizations working to preserve and tell the stories of local and global communities and bring high-quality public programs and educational resources directly to the American public.”

The Biden Administration proposed $200.7 million for NEH in their latest FY23 budget request, which is $20.7 million or 11.5 percent above the FY22 enacted level of funding. The FY23 budget includes $77.7 million for NEH grant programs and $63 million in awards to NEH’s partners in each of the 56 states and jurisdictions. The agency offers humanities programming that serves a variety of educational needs, including programs for teacher and faculty professional development; for veterans returning to academic life; and for the creation of higher education humanities curricula. See more analysis of CGS programs of interest in the latest budget request here.

Department of Education to Invest in Highly Effective Educators and Address Teacher Shortage

The Department of Education announced that the Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) grant program is now accepting applications for efforts that increase the pipeline of highly effective educators. The purpose of the SEED program is to increase the number of highly effective educators by supporting the implementation of Evidence-Based practices that prepare, develop, or enhance the skills of educators. These grants will allow eligible applicants to develop, expand, and evaluate practices that can serve as models to be sustained and disseminated.

Important Advisory Committee Notices

The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Advisory Committee for Education and Human Resources will have their next meeting in mid-May. The purpose of the meeting will be to provide advice with respect to NSF’s science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and human resources programming. One session at the meeting will be on Racial Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion as the Catalyst for Improving Graduate Education. The meeting will take place on May 18 and May 19 from Noon – 5:00 PM EST. To attend the virtual meeting, register at least 48 hours prior here.

The Department of Veterans Affairs Veterans’ Advisory Committee will also have a meeting in May. The purpose of the Committee is to advise the Secretary of Veterans Affairs on the administration of education and training programs for Veterans, Servicepersons, Reservists, and Dependents of Veterans, including GI Bill benefits for students. The purpose of the meeting is for the Committee to hear briefings on topics of interest to its three subcommittees (Modernization, OJT/Apprenticeship and Distance Learning) and to obtain updates based on its report and recommendations to VA submitted in December 2021. The meeting will take place May 24-May 26 from 10 AM – 5:00 PM EST. Please email for an invitation link prior to May 24.