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While the student-to-counselor ratio improved slightly in 2017 over the previous year, there is still one school counselor for every 482 students in K-12 schools, according to the American School Counselor Association (ASCA). The ratios range as high as 924 students for one counselor in Arizona to 202 students per counselor in Vermont, which is even lower than ASCA’s recommended 250-to-1 ratio.
While the expectations that all high school students will attend college or have some postsecondary education experience have increased, high school counselors spend only about 30% of their time on college advising, according to a 2015 National Association for College Admission Counseling report. The report showed that counselors in public high schools spend less time on college advising than their counterparts in private schools — 22% compared to 55%.
Those figures suggest that outside partners, such as College Advising Corps, are an important part of ensuring that more students understand the options available to them — especially since experts have increasingly recommended that college awareness needs to begin in middle school.
Last year, a randomized control trial by researchers at the University of Virginia and Texas A&M University showed that a program called Bottom Line (BL), which gives high school students one-on-one access to a counselor, has strong effects on college enrollment and four-year college enrollment. The program provides “explicit guidance” about applying to schools where students can likely be successful — and can afford. “While programs like BL are more resource intensive, our results indicate that successful high-impact advising strategies could play an important role in reducing inequality in American higher education,” the researchers wrote.