School counselors help students improve their academics, address emotional needs and prepare for college and careers. Still, they’re a profession that often floats under the radar in the education world.
Indiana currently has a higher student-to-counselor ratio than most states. There’s currently one counselor for every 639 students statewide.
A new report from the Indiana Chamber of Commerce says school superintendents and principals have favorable views of school counselors, but can’t always hire counselors when students need them.
“In Indiana we have a funding shortage for the number of school counselors that are truly needed at the schools,” said Jen Money-Brady, Indiana School Counselor Association president-elect. “We have enough counselors to fill those roles, it’s just finding the funding to be able to have the position available.
Brandie Oliver with Butler University’s School of Education helped author the Chamber of Commerce report. She agrees funding is a challenge.
She also says it’s important for school’s to embrace the evolving role of school counselors.
“Today’s counselor is definitely different from the counselor 20 years ago,” Oliver said. “School counselors address social-emotional need, academic needs and then college-and-career readiness needs.”
And that involves reaching students in a way counselors didn’t 20 years ago — addressing student trauma, toxic stress and other needs.
“When we think about college-and-career we have to think about it holistically,” Oliver said. “And so is student that’s kind of in crisis or worrying about trauma, are they really going to be able to look futuristically at their college-and-career?”
But challenges remain for school counselors to address the “career” part of “college-and-career readiness,” according to Oliver.
“Many counselors might feel pretty equipped with how to prepare and guide those students for college pathways,” Oliver said. “But there’s still a gap in knowledge and skills for students that are not going to pursue a traditional four-year college.”
Oliver says this can, in part, be remedied through increased access to data and other student tracking tools.
The Chamber of commerce report says the presence of school counselors positively impact a school’s climate and student emotional needs.