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Labor and Economic Opportunity

National survey shows Michigan counselors have third-highest student ratio in the country

Michigan Career Pathways Alliance recommendations offer support for students, educators

517-243-7530 | MURRAYD5@MICHIGAN.GOV

Dec. 19, 2017

Lansing, Mich. – Michigan school counselors are spread thin, with the third-highest student-to-counselor ratio in the nation, according to a recent report from the American School Counselor Association.

That ratio – 729 students for every counselor – makes it difficult for students to get the guidance they need, especially when it comes to exploring careers and pathways to good jobs.

The Michigan Career Pathways Alliance is working to support school counselors and help them provide students with the most current information about careers and training needed to get good jobs. Three of the alliance’s 17 recommendations include proposals aimed at providing more counselors, or resources to those currently in the job.

“We know many of our school counselors are asked to do more and more,” said Roger Curtis, director of the Michigan Department of Talent and Economic Development. “But their role is going to become even more vital as students start thinking about careers and navigating potential pathways earlier. We’re looking to help communities provide additional resources for counselors and give them the tools they need.”

Curtis and State Superintendent Brian Whiston at the direction of Gov. Rick Snyder co-lead the Michigan Career Pathways Alliance, which has recommendations to improve student access to the multiple career pathways that lead to good-paying, rewarding jobs in Michigan.

Based on the most recent data available, from the 2014-2015 school year, only Arizona and California have higher student-to-counselor ratios, and Michigan is well above the national average of 482 students per counselor. The American School Counselor Association suggests an optimal ratio of 250 students per counselor.

The Michigan Career Pathways Alliance recommends creating a program to provide state matching dollars through crowdfunding to assist in covering the costs for additional counselors and Professional Trades programs.

Another initiative calls for hiring career development facilitators to support counselors, with the focus on helping students explore career options and learn what training they need to get in-demand jobs.

The alliance also calls for counselors and teachers to be able to use externships and other experiences gained with local employers to count toward professional development requirements.

Snyder in November signed into law a bill that mandates school counselors dedicate 50 hours of the current 150-hour professional development requirement to better assist students with college and career selection, helping them assist students with additional information about career technical education and all possible pathways.

Several state agencies recently unveiled Pathfinder, a free, online tool providing counselors, students and adult jobseekers with real-time data about careers, the training needed to get those jobs, projected openings and average wage information.

Whiston signed some of the Alliance recommendations into action earlier this year while others are in various stages of completion. A number are included in bills that cleared the state House of Representatives this week. Other bills have been introduced in the state Senate.

The American School Counselor Association recommends that school counselors spend 80 percent or more of their time in direct and indirect services to students. School counselors participate as members of the educational team and use the skills of leadership, advocacy and collaboration to support the academic, career and social/emotional needs of all students.

Tony Warren, president of the Michigan School Counselor Association, said counselors today are pulled away from their core responsibilities. He said counselors also serve as test coordinators, Individualized Education Program facilitators, and Americans with Disabilities Act coordinators in addition to entering data for new enrollees, dealing with discipline issues and covering other administrative duties.

“Schools should eliminate or reassign all inappropriate tasks as identified by ASCA, doing so would allow counselors to carry out career development activities that align with state initiatives and promote equal access to school counseling programs for all students,” Warren said.

As the 21st century workforce adapts to technology and the jobs of the future, the Career Pathways Alliance recognizes the need for educators and employers to work more closely so students can explore careers and obtain in-demand skills.

Patrice Mang, a veteran school counselor in Allen Park, Mich., said she is excited to see school counselors get much-needed support.

“We love what we do,” Mang said. “The students must be the focus of what we are doing and seeing the Michigan Career Pathways Alliance make these strong recommendations to help us gain resources shows that we are working together to support our students. We need people to support this effort and see it through.”

To learn more about the Michigan Career Pathways Alliance visit