Budget Cuts Harm Students' College Prospects

Here's a case in point why fair school funding is so crucial to improving our nation's education system: 

Due to severe budget cuts in Philadelphia public schools, this year students are facing a two-week wait time to get an appointment with their school counselor to talk about college applications. The counselors, burdened with ballooning case loads, can't help every student that wants to go to college, let alone reach out to and encourage those who haven't considered it. 

From the Philadelphia Inquirer

"Many students at Central High shoot for top-tier colleges, but counselor Tatiana Olmedo has had to warn college officials not every student will have a letter of recommendation.

The math just doesn't add up, Olmedo said - 2,400 students, two counselors. Eight counselors used to work at the school. Students who want an appointment to see a counselor can count on a two-week wait."

The shortage of counselors is impacting more than just the college application process. Counselors also play a vital role in helping students transition from one grade to the next and stay on track to graduate: 

"When Northeast, with 3,000 students, had 11 counselors five years ago, the team had a tracking system and a proactive outreach plan - lessons helping ninth graders transition to high school, teaching students how to identify when a friend might be suicidal. Now, Andrew Dunakin, one of two full-time and two part-time counselors, says there's barely time to get out to visit classrooms. "It's just luck that we haven't had any huge problems this year," Dunakin said. Dunakin, who's responsible for more than 1,000 students, spent his New Year's Eve writing college recommendations."

Student allies from the New York City-based Urban Youth Collaborative (UYC) recently published a white paper that should be required reading for policymakers threatening to cut school budgets and student services. In the paper, they describe what a robust, well-funded school counseling force should (but oftentimes doesn't) look like: 

Every school should have one well-trained college counselor for every 100 seniors, with whom they should start working as early as 9th grade. Provided with the right training, teachers and student mentors can be an additional resource for students, and UYC points to several schools that have implemented Student Success Centers where students can go at any time to work with trained peer leaders and partnering adult staff.

Read more about Philly's counselor shortage here. Download UYC's white paper here (PDF), and learn about their Get Us To College Campaign.

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