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VP discusses mental health, higher ed; Claflin's academic excellence praised

Times & Democrat - 9/21/2022

Sep. 21—U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris spoke in favor of student loan relief and better mental health treatment during a Tuesday stop at Claflin University.

Harris noted the pandemic continues to take a toll on mental health.

"So many people lost their job and so the effects of that are still lingering in a very profound way. In fact, three in five college students have been diagnosed with some level of need for mental health care and that's just among those who have been diagnosed," Harris said.

Harris discussed the issue and others with students at Claflin during a stop in Orangeburg. She also spoke at South Carolina State University.

"I have long believed that when it comes to the health care policy in our country, we still have so much more and we still must do so much better when it comes to mental health," Harris said.

"We must realize we've got to stop acting as if the body starts from the neck down. We also need health care on the neck up, and there should be no stigma about that. People should not be made to suddenly suffer," she said.

She also discussed the impact of young voters and U.S. President Joe Biden's student debt relief plan.

The number of people who voted between the ages of 18 to 24 reached 64.8 percent during the 2020 election, which is the highest this century, she said.

"These young folks at the time told us what they wanted. They put in an order on what they want to see in their country," Harris said.

"They said we want to see a college be more affordable, which includes knowing that they can graduate from college, they can leave college, not being unduly burdened by student loan debt," Harris said.

More Pell Grant benefits are needed "to meet the mark of what we need so that we don't have to struggle to pay rent or buy food or buy books and school supplies," Harris said.

She then shifted gears to speak on the administration's investment in education, particularly HBCUs. The Biden-Harris administration has invested a total of $5.8 billion into HBCUs, according to the White House website.

"Young voters said we want to know that you're trying to invest in our centers of academic excellence, and in particular our HBCUs and minority-serving institutions," Harris said.

Harris spoke of Claflin University's achievements, including being ranked among the country's top 10 HBCUs by U.S. News and World Report.

"I'm honored to be at Claflin University, which has a distinction of being a center of academic excellence in our country," Harris said.

Harris was accompanied by U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona during her stop at Claflin.

Terry Benjamin II, a Claflin University mass communications senior, is reporting for The Times and Democrat as a Lee Enterprises-sponsored news-sports intern.


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