And the problem is only growing: The number of students seeking counseling has doubled in the last five years on some campuses, given increased rates of anxiety and depression, as well as decreased stigma when it comes to seeking help. That's what prompted the company where Demers now works, Grit Digital Health, to develop an app to help college students combat loneliness, a precursor to anxiety and depression, by building connections in the real world.

Why is it so hard to scale student services? In large part, it comes down to the resources they require. Services staffed by professionals and those predicated on one-to-one support are difficult to expand in an era of shrinking budgets and lack of will to spend money on students who need the most help. Even programs with proven success at boosting graduation rates for low-income students, and at a lower cost per degree than without the program, have failed to scale due to both a lack of funds for community colleges and budgetary red tape.

But even with tight budgets, all institutions can help students access one resource hiding in plain sight: their classmates. Schools have an immense opportunity to activate students’ peer networks to tackle the shortages they face across mental health, social, academic, and guidance support services.

Recently, the nonprofit Christensen Institute researched innovative tools and programs leveraging students’ peer networks to provide these supports. Our resulting report suggests there’s a growing trend toward scalable peer-to-peer models for student services.

Many of the tools and programs we researched are designed to transcend the barriers that keep support services limited, hidden, or out of reach for many of the students who could benefit from them. They operate with lower costs, or with greater cost efficiencies, than models fully reliant on professional staff and one-to-one support. They transform complex services into simpler ones that are easier for students to access anytime, anywhere. (The Christensen Institute has no relationship with these companies or business leaders.)

Read the full article about peer mentoring by Chelsea Waite at EdSurge.