Jun 6, 2024 - News

Arkansas needs more school counselors

Choropleth map showing the U.S. student to school counselor ratio in K-12 public education during the 2022-2023 school year. The state with the highest rate  was Arizona, with 667 students for one counselor. Vermont had the least, with 177 students per one counselor. The U.S. average was 385. The suggested ratio, according to the American School Counselor Association, is 250 students per one counselor.
Data: American School Counselor Association; Map: Tory Lysik/Axios Visuals

Arkansas' student-to-school counselor ratio is better than the national average but still not on par with the recommended rate, according to data from the American School Counselor Association (ASCA).

Why it matters: Experts say the disparity of school counselor access disproportionately hurts students of color seeking mental health help or advice in applying to college in a post-affirmative action world, Axios' Russell Contreras writes.

By the numbers: Arkansas has one school counselor for every 347 students, while the national average is one per 385 kids. The recommended ratio is one counselor per 250 students.

  • Arkansas has the nation's 24th-lowest ratio. Vermont has the lowest with 177 students for every counselor, and Arizona is the highest at 667.

Zoom in: School counselors are certified educators who help students navigate behavioral challenges, boost achievement, plan out class schedules, set goals, and explore career and college options.

  • They serve as liaisons between students and mental health professionals, state child protective service agencies and university recruiters.
  • School counselors are typically the first to know a child is facing abuse, struggling with hunger or contemplating suicide.

What they're saying: "Having fewer school counselors prohibits students from being identified or being seen," Eric Sparks, ASCA deputy executive director, tells Axios.

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