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Poll: A third of U.S. college students consider withdrawing due to stress

April 27 (UPI) -- Emotional stress is forcing a large number of college students to consider taking a break.

A third of all college students in the United States considered withdrawing from their studies in the past six months, according to a Lumina Foundation and Gallup poll released Wednesday.

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Some 32% of bachelor's degree candidates reported considering withdrawing for at least a semester. And 41% of associate degree students considered taking a break in the past six months, according to the State of Higher Education 2022 Report.

Still, most students in the study still see college as valuable.

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"Those who had stopped out or had never enrolled are still reporting that they think an education beyond high school is a pathway to a better job and a better life," said Stephanie Marken, executive director of education research at Gallup.

Emotional stress caused by COVID-19, the cost of tuition and difficult coursework were the three most-reported reasons students considered taking a break.

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"Mental health crises have been popping up on campuses across the country for several years, pre-pandemic, but COVID-19 really exacerbated these issues for students," Marken said.

Colleges are adding mental health counseling to existing academic help. Virtual classes, which became a quick necessity during the pandemic, make education accessible to those students who need a break. And many schools are offering de-stressing activities to reduce anxiety before midterm and final exams.

At Illinois Central College, students can enjoy massage chairs, oxygen bars and some arcade games. The University of Houston's stress-free finals include Lego building and ice cream. And at Kellogg Community College in Michigan, students smash electronics during Stress Busters Week.

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Other colleges offer days off to color, ride tricycles or play with puppies.

A Washington State University study in 2021 found dogs are a big help for stressed students. Students reported feeling less anxiety after petting therapy dogs than they did after taking stress management courses.

"Dogs are such a great, happy distraction from our troubles. I think they bring you out of your head," Amy Hrin, national director of special projects at American Human, said at the time. "And when you think about this particular population -- students who are away from home -- and here they can have this chance to give and receive affection with this warm, friendly animal. If you can't have a hug from Mom right now, this is the next best thing."

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