School Counselors Strain to Meet Student Needs

School counselors required to perform cafeteria, bus, and detention-room monitoring because of budget cuts are finding less time to spend with students coping with school anxieties, peer pressure, and troubles at home, the Associated Press reported May 28.

In school districts nationwide, the ratio of students to counselors is 477-to-1. The recommended ratio is 250-to-1. “I’m trying to do all the things I used to do, but I’m just not able to do it as well,” said Sue-Ann Joy, head counselor at San Rafael High School in California. Budget cuts in the district have reduced the advising staff to two full-time positions, or one per 500 students.

The cuts are seen from elementary schools to high schools. Counselors in elementary schools traditionally guide students to start thinking about careers, build communication skills, and develop healthy attitudes about themselves and their peers. In high school, counselors help students with study habits, financial aid, college recommendations, class schedules, transitions between grades, and major tests, as well as eating disorders, relationship troubles, deaths of friends, and teen pregnancies.

Students say the personal relationship that develops with school counselors is essential for gaining confidence and staying motivated. However, access to counselors is growing more difficult. “Being a high-school student, it’s really easy to get distracted with all the little things going around,” said Jonathan Smith, a junior with hopes of winning a football scholarship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “To have someone always watching you makes you want to do better. You just want to make her proud.”