Jackson Porterfield is a second-year graduate student at Missouri State University. Outside of the course, Porterfield works as a graduate assistant and barista at Green House Coffee + Affogato Bar.
In their role as alumni assistant, Porterfield is responsible for writing lesson plans, teaching lessons, grading work, and providing office hours. Porterfield said they know they are spending more time than the average expected of 20 hours a week by the university.
Since entering their second year, Porterfield has found themselves “quitting quietly,” or putting in less effort at school work in an effort to maintain their mental health, compared to when they started on the program. They said this allowed them to find a greater balance between school, work and personal life.
Although current research indicates that Porterfield is not alone in his quiet streak, many college students still struggle to find a healthy balance.
What is a quiet take off?
The term “quiet take off” does not accurately describe its true meaning. This does not mean that one actually quits their job. Instead, employees are beginning to draw a line in the sand when it comes to work and life boundaries. This trend has been linked to the loss that followed the peak of the epidemic.
More recently, quiet resignation has been associated with the workforce. According to the management consulting firm Gallup, 50% of American workers are quietly quitting now. But new research suggests that smoking cessation is found in higher education as well.
according to CleverAccording to a survey of 1,000 public, private and community college students, a third of college students quietly quit smoking to preserve their mental health.
Porterfield said they are not holding back on their homework and graduation aid because they are no longer interested. Instead, they want to work with the amount they get paid for.
“I tend to focus my energy on ways that I think are fair to what I think is my salary, which I think looks a lot different than other individuals in the same position,” Porterfield said.
Porterfield’s concerns are not unique.
According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 50% of job seekers were reluctant to start a new job because the salary did not meet their expectations this year. This is probably because most recent graduates expect an average salary of $70,000 or more, yet employers expect to pay entry-level candidates just under $53,000 on average.
Porterfield’s calm mindset of smoking cessation is prevalent in their education. Oftentimes, Porterfield teaches college freshmen, who note that they are more nervous when it comes to meeting expectations.
“I will try to stress that my class will not necessarily be the most important thing to these students,” Porterfield said. “The hour and a half to three hours a week that they spend with me in this semester is not going to be the integrated experience they think they need for their university experience, and that’s okay. They should put in the same amount of effort I think they will benefit my class and nothing more, as long as they do what meets the session expectations.
A revolution in mental health
Emily Tanner is also a graduate student at Missouri State. Her alumni assistant manages the marketing department’s social media platforms. She said she noticed a shift in discussions about mental health among people her age.
“I think we’re really in a mental health revolution,” Tanner said. “More people seem to be talking about it, but nothing is getting better.”
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Smart Scan He noted that one in five college students described their school life balance as unhealthy.
A graduate student completing her final semester in Missouri, Acacia Boerboom works alongside Tanner in the marketing department, to manage the site. She said she often asks herself what is more important: school or her happiness.
“This semester, I think I’ve had to kind of let go of the mental health aspect and honestly put it aside and go on autopilot,” Boorboom said.
On the other end of the spectrum, Tanner said she feels well-versed in prioritizing her mental health, along with her homework. After nine semesters in college, she said, I learned the techniques that were best for her. The most important thing is to take some time, whether it’s just an hour a day, to get away from work and school.
When it comes to mental health resources on campus, Tanner said she thinks they are well advertised.
According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, two out of three recent graduates expect employers to support their mental health and participate in open conversations about it.
The Missouri Counseling Center offers eight free counseling services to students each semester.
In late August, the center rolled out a new model called Personal Care, which offers more services to students. These include different types of specialized individual and group therapies, interactive self-help mobile apps, and monthly educational workshops.
Led Brandon, a junior in Missouri, has been using the services of a counseling center since he was a freshman. Brandon said they appreciated the center’s services, but didn’t like the time they had to wait before meeting someone. Brandon said they had to wait two or three weeks before seeing a counselor after calling the center.
With the new personalized care model, the center now accepts outbound visits for initial consultations, said Rhonda Leslie, director of the counseling center. These consultations last between 20-30 minutes and allow the center’s staff to direct students toward the path that is best for them.
Leslie said the biggest commonalities about why students visit the counseling center are the consequences of the pandemic, including self-isolation and grief over the loss of loved ones. She added that she believes the Missouri community is cooperating more to benefit students’ mental health needs through organizations and projects outside the counseling center.
“I just feel there is more awareness of the needs of the students and making sure that the students are receiving support in the right ways,” Leslie said. “This is an exciting outcome from COVID, which is tragic in many ways.”
Views are changing about higher education
Because some students “quit quietly,” others quit entirely, or pursue other paths, such as entering the job market. This is reflected at the national and local levels.
Nationally, post-secondary enrollment declined 2.6% from the fall 2020 semester to the 2021 semester, according to the National Student Information Exchange Research Center. In Missouri, enrollment declined 2% between the fall 2020 and 2021 semesters Then it’s down 2% again this year.
Springfield, Missouri resident Ruby Redcliffe left in 2020. She said the pandemic has changed her perspective on higher education.
“It kind of made the school look useless,” said Redcliffe. “I didn’t want to pay for something I wasn’t already trying to do so I actually quit. I understand why people only make suggestions because there is so much pressure to get into school.”