Guidance Counselors Facing Cutbacks And Increased Caseloads

By Staff
October 21, 2009

High school counselors, whose responsibilities include helping students apply to college and seek financial aid, are seeing significant increases in caseloads.

KCBS in San Francisco reports that California budget cuts have resulted in an average caseload of 700 to 1,000 students per counselor, while nationwide the ratio is about 300 to one.

"The hope of having a one-on-one counseling session really just won't be realized with that kind of caseload," said David Hawkins of the National Association for College Admission Counseling. "Students who receive attention are the ones who are already in the college pipeline, prepared, willing and ready to apply. Those students who might need the most help, who might be qualified to go to college, but just don't have the information, often times just aren't seeing the counselor at all."

But often schools are being forced to cut back on the number of counselors in an effort to trim costs, a step which is exacerbating the situation even further. Hawkins said he is urging legislators to recognize the need for a college educated workforce and add, instead of cut, high school counselors.

This week, NACAC released a study entitled "2009 State of College Admission," which found that caseloads for high school counselors increased by over 50 students on average this year. Counselors are also facing increased pressure at work as students are applying to more four-year colleges and early decision programs.

The New York Times reports that other states with high student-to-counselor ratios include Minnesota, with 799 students to each counselor; and Utah, with 720 students to every counselor. Illinois had the highest ratio of 1,172 students, but the report suggested that the information appeared to be incorrect and was more likely closer to about 700.

Sandie Gilbert, a counselor at Highland Park High School in Illinois, noted that she had a caseload of approximately 280 students this year--about 45 more than she had when she began working at the school 15 years ago. About 25 percent of them are seniors, for whom she must write letters of recommendation for college applications.

"I wrote 43 recommendations before October 15, and that's at home, at night," she told The Times. "I was really busy every single period for the first six weeks of school."

The Examiner reports that counselor reductions hit close to 50 percent of schools in Hartford, Connecticut, and predicts that the cutbacks will likely have ramifications for low-income students who need more assistance with financial aid and college applications.

"The work and influence of a guidance counselor extends way beyond the classroom and should not be undervalued," notes the Examiner. "Increasing rather than decreasing the number of counselors within each school is necessary to spark the flame, get these kids ready for the next academic step--mentally and logistically."

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