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Tight Economy Drives Cutbacks in High School Counselors

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Barely milliseconds after a new report offered vivid illustration of how much students need help applying for college financial aid, we get a survey telling us that some of the folks who could help them do that are getting cut from high school payrolls.

A survey released today by the National Association for College Admission Counseling found that tight economic times are driving freezes or cutbacks in the counseling staffs at the vast majority of high schools.

Troubling, especially in light of a new report showing how important it can be for students to get help filling out the complicated FAFSA financial aid form. That difficulty can prove a stumbling block to college application and enrollment. (See my story about it here; blog item here.)

High school counselors are already so strapped that they can't give much help, if any, on college advising and applications. Cutbacks could only make that situation worse. At some schools, I know, those duties are handled by a career and college counselor, to take the burden off of guidance counselors, who rarely have that sort of training. I wonder if budget cuts are eliminating some of these positions, as well.

Speaking of cutbacks that affect the high-school-to-college pipeline, take a look, too, at this new report from the University of Alabama on cutbacks at the community college level. And this is happening just as the two-year colleges are experiencing a rising tide of interest and enrollment, fueled by the need for retraining in a rough economy, and a high-profile push from the presidential administration to boost Americans' educational attainment. Inside Higher Ed has a story on the study, as well.

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Our district had a career counselor in each high school to help guide students in the college application process (as well as help with ideas other than college). Yup, the position got cut so now we parents, with little training, are stepping in. I think most of us can help with essays/resume writing, maybe even some college guidance but we certainly don't know a lot about financial aid or apply under athletic requirements. We're a solid high school in Seattle and I think our parents are smart but, in the end, we really aren't a good substitute for a person who is trained. Luckily we have a non-profit here geared just for students who are first-generation to get to college who are giving us a tremendous amount of assistance. We are very fortunate.

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