Slight increase in health fee is warranted

Times are tough.

So the knee jerk reaction when the university comes knocking for a fee increase is a resounding “No.”

That knee jerk reaction is not always the right move, though.

Health Services – which covers both the health and counseling centers – is going to cost more next year, that’s a given. The fee is going to have to be raised. It makes sense, though, as the cost of health care has definitely gone up.

The fee hasn’t changed in three years, and it won’t change for another three years, which is when Bradley’s contract to outsource Health Services to OSF Saint Francis Medical Center runs out.

So asking for an additional $10 per semester is reasonable.

We would fully support a slightly higher fee if it meant better stability for the department should something, like swine flu, strike again.

A fee increase could also mean the addition of another full-time mental health counselor, a position that is badly needed.

At certain times during last semester, students who were new patients to the existing counselors reported waiting weeks to get in for a first appointment.

That’s simply unacceptable.

The wait was through no fault of Health Services. They can only see as many people as humanly possible in a day, no more.

But as study after study says, the mental health of college students today is often in poor shape,  and the addition of a counselor is well worth it.

We do note, however, that any fee increase mustn’t be taken lightly. And all the money from that increase must go to programs that will directly benefit students’ health. The counselor position would fall into that category.

The addition of another part-time doctor would also fall into that category.

What would not is Alcohol EDU, an online alcohol-awareness survey students would take. The program would view their alcohol use and keep up with the students during their four years at Bradley.

The cost? A little less than $30,000.

We’re all for promoting safe drinking habits. Bradley has seen far more than its fair share of drinking-related accidents in recent years, and the university has significantly stepped up its alcohol awareness programs.

But we can’t help but ask the question: Will Alcohol EDU work? Other schools have reported success with it, there’s no denying that.

The question then, is, will it work for Bradley and is it worth the cost?

We would argue no, it is not. It’s likely the program would see success here. But Bradley already has, in our opinion, an outstanding alcohol awareness program. Help Empower and Teach reaches just about every single student on campus at least one time. EHS 120 classes take it a step further.

But at some point, students have to take the responsibility for themselves to drink responsibly.

All that said, we would endorse a health fee increase of $30 a year, bring the total paid to about $170 a year. That number puts Bradley far lower than most every comparable school nearby. Many of those schools charge per visit, either out of pocket or to insurance. Bradley doesn’t. Many of those schools have only one doctor. Bradley has six, though five are part-time.

The Health Center is continuing to fight a stigma it earned over the years, but from what we can tell, it’s no longer a deserved one.