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Barnes & Noble Education Reveals New Data on the State of College Student Mental Health

Barnes & Noble College’s Student Mental Health Pulse Survey Reveals Key Stressors and Attitudes Toward the Return to In-Person Learning as the Fall 2021 Semester Ends

Barnes & Noble Education, Inc. (NYSE: BNED), a leading solutions provider for the education industry, published findings from its Barnes & Noble College Student Mental Health Pulse Survey today. With the fall semester coming to an end, BNED wanted to understand how the return to campus has impacted student mental health. Using Barnes & Noble College (BNC) Insights, BNED’s research platform, the company surveyed 1,116 college students aged 18-24 years old, across the U.S. to find out. The survey’s findings provide a look at the current state of student mental health and insights into how campus resources can help mitigate student stressors and improve student wellbeing.

Mental Health Resources

The survey found that 8 in 10 students (83 percent) reported experiencing feelings of significant stress or anxiety since the fall 2021 semester started.

When asked if their college or university provided resources for mental health/student well-being, nearly 70 percent of students indicated that their campus did provide resources and just over half of those students (54 percent) said they felt those resources would be helpful to them.

However, 80 percent of students who acknowledged their campus provided support said they rarely or never take advantage of the resources available to them.

Overcoming the Stigma Surrounding Mental Health

The lack of using mental health resources may be due to the stigma that continues to surround mental health. Barnes & Noble College’s February 2021 report: COLLEGE 2030™: Transforming the Student Experience, found that students want a removal of the stigma attached to mental health services with one COLLEGE 2030 survey respondent noting that campuses need to “do a better job of advertising counseling services in a way to remove the stigma associated with them.”

In late October, the Biden administration rolled out a nationwide plan to address student mental health and within the plan also noted that “the goal is to eliminate stigma associated with seeking mental health support.” To understand if students still felt a stigma on the topic, BNC asked students if they were hesitant to talk to friends or family about concerns with their mental health. While the survey found that 42 percent of students were comfortable discussing their mental health with friends and family, almost half of students (45 percent) said they were not.

In hearing these results, BNED CEO and Chairman, Michael P. Huseby noted that “As we continue to understand the obstacles to providing effective mental health services, it is critical that colleges and universities shape the conversations happening on their campuses and cultivate an open and positive discourse around seeking mental health support.”

College Student Stressors

While it’s important to remove the stigma of discussing mental health and seeking services, BNC also wanted to understand what factors are causing students to feel significant levels of stress and anxiety.

When students were asked to rank what caused the most stress for them, the survey found over half of students (57 percent) ranked “getting good grades” as the number one stressor. Interestingly, only 1/4 of students (25 percent) said “accumulating debt/paying for tuition” caused the most stress and just 12 percent of students ranked “finding a job post grad” as the factor stressing them out the most.

In addition to academic factors, BNC examined which non-academic related factors were causing stress for college students, finding that 38 percent listed “the COVID pandemic and if it will end” as the number one stressor. One fifth of students said “the health of the environment/future of the planet” was causing the most stress while another 20 percent of students said it was “the political division within the country.” Just over 1/10 of students (12 percent) said “racial injustice and equality” was the number one stressor and 9 percent of students claimed “gun violence” as their number one non-academic stressor.

Fostering a Sense of Community

In addition to more accessible mental health resources on campus, having a sense of community can help students overcome the factors that are causing them anxiety. After a year of remote learning, BNC was curious if returning to on-campus learning would help students feel a sense of community and improve their mental wellbeing.

The survey found that 75 percent of students who are attending in-person or hybrid classes feel happy now that they are back on campus and participating in in-person learning and on-campus activities. In addition, 73 percent of students said that being on campus in-person helped them feel a sense of community.

See the full survey findings here.

Survey Methodology

Barnes & Noble College Insights™ conducted online quantitative survey of 1,116 college students aged 18-24 years, across the U.S. in November 2021 to better understand the state of student mental health.

About Barnes & Noble Education

Barnes & Noble Education, Inc. (NYSE: BNED) is a leading solutions provider for the education industry, driving affordability, access, and achievement at hundreds of academic institutions nationwide and ensuring millions of students are equipped for success in the classroom and beyond. Through its family of brands, BNED offers campus retail services and academic solutions, a digital direct-to-student learning ecosystem, wholesale capabilities and more. BNED is a company serving all who work to elevate their lives through education, supporting students, faculty, and institutions as they make tomorrow a better, more inclusive and smarter world. For more information, visit



Carolyn J. Brown

Senior Vice President

Corporate Communications & Public Affairs


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