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Weathering the Storm: How to Manage Shrinking Student Health Budgets

May 3, 2023

shrinking student health budgetsWe’ve all seen headlines in recent years about declines in enrollment across colleges and universities. When enrollment declines, there are several consequences for the institution. One area that’s often impacted by declining enrollment is the budget for student health clinics.

Student health clinics play a vital role in the health and well-being of college students. These clinics provide a range of services, including primary care, mental health counseling, and preventive care. They’re often a crucial resource for students who may not have access to healthcare outside of school or who may be uninsured.

However, when enrollment declines, the budget for student health clinics can also decline. This can lead to many challenges for clinics, including reduced staffing, limited hours of operation, and less access to resources and services.

How Student Health Is Impacted

One of the main ways that declining enrollment can impact the budget for student health clinics is through reduced funding from tuition revenue. When enrollment declines, the amount of tuition revenue also declines, which can lead to budget cuts in various areas, often the student health clinic.

Another way that declining enrollment can affect the budget for student health clinics is through changes in the student health fee. Many colleges and universities charge a student health fee as part of the overall cost of tuition. This fee is used to fund the student health clinic and other health-related services on campus. When enrollment declines, the number of students paying the health fee also declines, which can reduce funding for the student health clinic.

In addition to the direct impact on funding, declining enrollment can also lead to indirect challenges for student health clinics. For example, if the school is facing budget cuts in other areas, the student health clinic may be asked to do more with less. This can lead to increased workload and reduced resources for staff, which can lead to staff burnout and a reduction in the quality of care provided.

Addressing Budget Challenges

There are a few ways that colleges and universities can address the challenges that declining enrollment can pose to student health clinics. Here are some of our top suggestions:

  1. Diversify funding and support sources: For example, the student health clinic could seek grants from local healthcare organizations to supplement its budget. Additionally, community health organizations may support pop-up clinics, educational programs, or other events to allow your staff to keep up with the regular clinic caseload.

  2. Explore alternative models of care: Examples can include telemedicine or virtual visits, which can be more cost-effective and allow the clinic to reach a wider range of students with less stress on administrative staff.

  3. Billing services to health insurance plans: While this can be a hefty undertaking in the short term due to possible changes in administrative and billing staffing and the need for university administration buy-in, the resources invested can pay dividends in the medium- and long-term.

  4. Develop a strong network of volunteers: When you’re asked to do more with less, it’s time to get creative. Building a network of volunteers, including students, community members, or other university staff, can free up time and resources for your full-time clinic staff. For example, student health ambassadors can help staff educational events and promote clinic services on your behalf, allowing your team to focus on providing exceptional care within the clinic itself.

There’s no doubt that declining enrollment can have significant impacts on the budget and operations of your clinic. Your team plays a vital role in the health and well-being of students, and it’s important to ensure they have the resources and support they need to continue providing high-quality care.

By diversifying funding sources and exploring alternative models of care, colleges and universities can work to mitigate the challenges posed by declining enrollment and ensure that students have access to the healthcare services they need.

Proactively managing resources, staff caseloads, and demand for services is key. Medicat’s college health software solutions help your clinic do just that. Learn more about the power of an integrated approach to supporting practice management and electronic records.

Interested in learning more about how your campus health solutions can become more integrated and impactful?  Connect with a member of our team.