Giving Compass' Take:

· School counselors play a vital role in the success of students, but in the 2018 fiscal year budget, the Trump administration proposed deep cuts to student support programs. The Hechinger Report discusses the importance of counselors in schools and why cuts in funding reduce the projected success of students.

· Why isn't counseling a higher priority? How can philanthropy most effectively support counseling in schools? 

· Read more on how guidance leads to better student results.

Colorado’s labor and demographic profiles mirror those in the rest of the country: Jobs that require only a high-school diploma are disappearing, and, while more people nationwide are going to college, Latinos rank behind whites and African-Americans in high school graduation and postsecondary attainment.

So far, the results of Colorado’s commitment to counseling are promising. As of 2016, the most recent year for which data is available, graduation rates among participating schools had risen from 65 percent to nearly 80 percent, while dropout rates declined. Enrollment in high school career-and-technical programs doubled. Completion rates for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid increased to 54 percent, compared to 48 percent for the state, and the share of students taking college-level courses grew to 74 percent, compared to 48 percent at non-funded schools.

But Colorado’s counseling initiative is far from the norm nationwide. The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) recommends that a school counselor’s caseload be limited to no more than 250 students. However, the national average is 482 students per counselor. Counselors in Arizona are spread the thinnest, with an average of 924 students each; California ranks second, with 760 students per counselor. As of the 2014-15 school year, Colorado’s student-to-counselor ratio was 383-1, a marked decrease from a 2007 level of 500 students per school counselor.

Investing in school counseling as a tool for helping students climb out of poverty, meanwhile, is not high on the White House agenda. In its 2018 fiscal year budget, the Trump administration proposed deep cuts to the Student Support and Academic Enrichments block grant program, a federal program that earmarks a portion of its spending to help school districts pay for counseling, mental health programs and drug and violence prevention. Congressional leaders disagreed: The omnibus spending bill they passed in March included a $700 million bump to SSAE, bringing the grant to $1.1 billion. Still, that was short of the $1.65 billion originally authorized for the program in 2017.

When deciding how education dollars ought to be spent, politicians rarely consider counseling a high priority, said David Hawkins, executive director for education content and policy for the National Association for College Admissions Counseling. One exception to this political disinterest, he noted, was Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher initiative, which brought national attention to school counselors and the positive impact they have on kids.

Read the full article about the impact of school counselors by Sarah Gonser at The Hechinger Report.