According to the most recent data from the American Counseling Association Indiana and Michigan are ranked 44th and 46th in the country for their student-to-counselor ratios. After years of tight school budgets and staffing cuts, some area counselors are feeling stretched as their workloads continue to increase.
In the 2010-2011 school year, the average student-to-counselor ratio in Indiana was 620:1. In Michigan the average was 706:1. The states far exceed the national average of 471:1.
And those numbers have only grown since 2011, as staff cuts across both states have led to counselors taking on the work that was once divided among two or three people.
“Several year ago we had three counselors and a behavior specialist as well so essentially 4 counselors,” said Niles High School college and career counselor Josie DeJong, “And now we’re down to two.”
There have also been reports of cutbacks across South Bend and Mishawaka.
“We had four counselors and a half-time social worker,” said Christina Clements, guidance counselor at John Young Middle School. “And now we are down to two and half and no social worker.”
The American School Counselor Association recommends a ratio of 250:1. Most Michiana school corporations are far from that ideal at a time when student needs are on the rise.
“The need is much greater for counselors in the school systems to assist with the students, parent, teachers, and administrators,” said Laurie Schalliol, a John Young Middle School Counselor. “I find that i am spending more time on coping skills with students.”
Many counselors agree that the technology and social media age has changed the way that children learn to socialize, and sometimes not for the better.
“I deal with a lot of conflict kinds of issues i would say that social media, facebook, cell phones occupy so much of my time working with students,” said Joan Langmeyer, the student support counselor at Niles High School, “It’s a little sad to me that some of the issues that I deal with are very, very personal and sensitive and they affect students’ self esteem in a much, much larger capacity than just 10 years ago.”