School of Education


Doctor of Philosophy


Vonda Beavers


coronavirus, pandemic, Georgia, higher education, mental health, student




The purpose of this qualitative study was to understand the experiences regarding mental health-related resources and policies since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic for undergraduate students at higher education institutions in northern Georgia. The theory guiding this study is Bandura’s social cognitive theory, as it explores motivators and factors for human behavior and attitude. A phenomenological research design was used to determine common themes among college students enrolled in higher education institutions in northern Georgia before and throughout the entirety of the COVID-19 pandemic. The higher education institutions were within an 80-mile radius, as these colleges were required to implement statewide precautions, regulations, and policies during the COVID-19 pandemic. A total of 10 participants were included in the study. Individual interviews, focus groups, and journal prompts were used as the methods of data collection. Individual interviews and focus groups were conducted online through TEAMS, and the journal prompts were collected electronically through e-mail. Data analysis was conducted using thematic analysis and horizontalization. Common themes and significant quotes were highlighted and organized into categories using online password-protected files. Three major themes emerged: (a) institutional policies, (b) mental health-related resources, and (c) meeting student needs. The sub-themes that emerged included unknowns, switch to online learning, social distancing, counseling, physical and outdoor activities, institutional communication to students, and including students in the decision-making process. Triangulation, member checks, and an audit trail were used to check for trustworthiness.

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