Mental Health Issues Are Hurting Attendance

Mental Health Issues Are Hurting Attendance

From time to time, students don’t show up to class. It happens. But when it happens, how often do you or your colleagues ask why students aren’t coming to class? How often is asking students about the reasons behind their absences a part of your strategy?


Understanding why students aren’t showing up is critical in figuring out how to get them back in class. One of the big contributors to student absence, it turns out, is poor mental health. In fact, over 75% of students said they’ve experienced mental health issues such as stress, anxiety, and depression, and those issues are increasingly cited as reasons why students skip class.

With over 40% of students saying they’ve considered dropping out due to mental health issues, it’s time to take mental health seriously as a risk factor to completion. 


Many schools are well aware of the prevalence of the mental health issues their students deal with. A report released by the American Council on Education found that more than 80 percent of top university executives say that mental health is more of a priority on campus now than it was three years ago. Schools have made efforts to help students manage mental health issues, including opening counseling centers, creating health and wellness programs, forming student-led support groups, and even requiring staff members to receive mental health and first aid training.

Unfortunately, these methods to combat mental health issues are ineffective for many of the students who need them the most. Students who stay home because of mental health lose the opportunity to benefit from campus resources. Plus, small schools may not have the resources to implement extensive student counseling services, relying instead on advisors who are incredible, but have a lot on their plate. 


One of the biggest indicators that a student may suffer from mental health issues is attendance. When a student doesn’t make it to class, they fall behind in their hours and curriculum. And when a student is already in distress, catching up may feel insurmountable. Plus, if they aren’t coming to class, they also can’t take advantage of on-campus resources or advisor support. 

Getting students back to campus as soon as possible is key to ensuring they have all the resources they need to persist in their program. 


In a student survey, we found that many schools don’t reach out to students if they miss a day of class. Reaching out immediately is key to preventing students from falling too far behind. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. 

Oftentimes, due to data delays, advisors may not be aware that a student missed class until several days after the absence occurred. By that time, the student may have missed even more class. 

Leveraging a real-time attendance solution can help schools identify absences immediately. With data in-hand, advisors can take a proactive approach to retention by contacting students the day they miss class. By intervening early, schools can prevent students from becoming at risk. 

While direct, personal outreach is always nice, it may not be feasible at every school. To remedy that, some solutions even allow for automatic outreach to absent students, either through the CRM or directly through the attendance platform. For example, CourseKey can automatically send students a push notification when they’ve missed class, while also notifying administrators that the student is absent. 


But intervention needs to be more than just reminding a student to go to class. 

Imagine being a student dealing with anxiety about your progression through your program. If you miss a day because you had a panic attack and your school reaches out to remind you that it’s detrimental to miss classes and that you need to come back as soon as possible, it might just drive you further towards dropping out. 


Instead, schools need to be sure that their message to absent students is supportive. Ask the student why they didn’t show up. Listen to the student and take note of the reasons they provide. If the student does reveal that they’re dealing with mental health issues and didn’t want to be in class, school staff can help them by answering questions and making them aware of what resources are available on campus.

In addition, by listening to students describe the challenges hindering them from coming to campus, schools will acquire specific intel about other issues they could be addressing. For example, if a student admits that they don’t have enough money to purchase lunch every day, schools can consider installing a fridge and microwave to enable students to bring food from home. By understanding specific reasons why students aren’t showing up, schools can tailor their approach to how they can help students deal with challenges and persist through their programs.

Ideally, through early detection and contacting students before their enrollment status is jeopardized by poor attendance records, you will be able to help students feel more supported at school and help them cope better with mental health issues like stress and anxiety in the first place.


CourseKey helps schools check in with students, encourage them, and identify potential issues early on. Our software combines the different factors of student success-attendance, progress, emotional, etc-into one location, then automatically intervenes with students based on customizable risk factors. 

For example, if a student misses a day of class you can automatically send them a message saying they were missed. If they miss a second day of class, you can send them a message with a link to a feedback survey, gently asking them what’s going on and if they need support. On the third day, you can automatically alert advisors that the student has been absent for three days in a row so the advisor can call the student personally. When the student shows up on day four, you can send them an encouraging message to cheer them on for persisting.

Request a demo to learn more about how CourseKey helps schools identify the different factors that make up student risk and automatically intervene with students. 

Request A Demo