Counselors are among the first to be cut when a budget crisis arises in most school districts, but in Colorado, a new grant program allows schools to hire more counselors, so they can not only work with students on academic matters, but also on career and social-emotional counseling. The program is set up primarily to help low-income students, some of whom would be the first to attend college in their families, according to The Hechinger Report.
While the recommended counselor to student ratio is 1 to 250, rarely is it met, Arizona, for instance, has a ratio of 1 to 960. The counselors, naturally, have little if any time to focus on each student as an individual.
Counselors in Colorado, where the ratios are near recommended guidelines, commonly get to know their students well, and act as advisors, discussing various aspects of their lives. This sets the students up for success, as shown by increased graduation and post-secondary education acceptance rates, and lower dropout rates, the article says.
Colorado faces an interesting conundrum. It's gearing up for a labor shortage. While the state has jobs, it faces a shortage of qualified labor. That’s where the counseling grant program would come into play. More students in the program means more students getting into college or trade school, and filling those positions down the road.
In other states, such as Massachusetts, a different problem exists. Blue-collar jobs are going overseas, or being absorbed by automation. Available jobs, like in healthcare, IT, and finance, require a degree. But students are not always being advised on current and future trends, or being taught the life skills to succeed in an ever-changing world. Counselors who are given the resources, training, and time to spend with students can mitigate that problem.
School counselors are already stretched way too thin. With the surge of school shootings, some experts are wondering whether with an advantageous counselor-student ratio and adequate support, counselors might be able to identify, and even help, troubled teens.
Alexandria Walton Radford, a consultant to the U.S. Department of Education, has found that there are many issues with the lack of counselors in school districts. For one, she discovered that counselors often only have time to work with average students, and leave the top students to fend for themselves. Parents of low-income, high-achieving students often don’t have personal experience with or the ability to help with tasks like researching top-ranking colleges, processing financial aid forms, or finessing college applications. Those students can end making misguided decisions. Having a supported, well-trained counselor with enough time in the day to get to know each student in his caseload can make all the difference.