Supporting the academic and social-emotional success and well-being of students is a critical role for the team of educators that interact with Michigan students each day. In addition to classroom educators, school counselors are essential for supporting student success. Yet across Michigan and throughout the nation, students are denied these important resources and supports, particularly students with the greatest need.

“I’m standing here today because teachers, and school counselors, and mentors chose to see hope and possibility in me that I could not see in myself,” said John B. King, Jr., President and CEO of The Education Trust and former U.S. Secretary of Education. This week is School Counseling Week in Michigan – highlighting the role that school counselors play in the lives of students in school, for post-secondary education planning and in life.

Importance of School Counselors

School counselors can be pivotal to the success of students’ educational experience. As a part of a comprehensive school counseling program, they provide critical social-emotional and academic supports.

And research links increased access to school counselors in high-poverty schools with higher student attendance and graduation rates as well as lower disciplinary rates. Research also demonstrates that Black students and prospective first-generation college students are more likely to identify their school counselor as the person who had the most impact on their thinking about postsecondary education than their White or non-first generation peers respectively.

Are there enough school counselors in Michigan?  

According to a recently-released fact sheet from The Education Trust, Reach Higher, and the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) last week, Michigan is both failing to meet the student-to-school-counselor ratio recommended by research as well as lagging behind national averages.

Nationally, across all K-12 schools, the average student-to-school counselor ratio is 464 to 1, which is nearly double the ASCA’s recommended ratio of 250 to 1. In Michigan, this ratio is 744 to 1. Also, according to recent analyses*, 41% of Michigan students do not have access to a counselor in their school at all.

And across high schools, where counselors are charged with providing critical guidance and support on post-secondary education, admission and preparation – Michigan lags behind both recommended ratios and the national average.

In Michigan high schools, there are 378 students for every one school counselor, compared to the national average of 311 high school students to each school counselor. At this critical point for personal and academic growth and navigation, Michigan and the nation have a significantly higher student-to-school counselor ratio than the recommended 250 to 1.

Is Michigan providing equitable access to counselors in high-needs schools?  

Michigan is one of 38 states shortchanging either their students of color, students from low-income families, or both. As a result, low-income students and students of color disproportionately experience less access to school counseling services than their higher income, white peers.

Specifically, for K-12 schools in Michigan, the average student-to-school counselor ratio in schools serving high percentages of students of color is 711 to 1, compared to 676 to 1 for schools with fewer students of color. And the ratios are even more devastating for high-poverty schools which have on average only 1 counselor for every 824 students – nearly 30 percent more than the 638 to 1 average student-to-school counselor ratio for higher income schools.












Source: The Education Trust analysis of data from the 2015-16 Civil Rights Data Collection and the 2015-16 Common Core of Data.

The trend is only slightly different in Michigan high schools. While students of color and low-income students have slightly better access to school counselors, student-to-counselor ratios are still far above the recommended 250:1 ratio and leave the additional needs of many vulnerable students unmet.












Source: The Education Trust analysis of data from the 2015-16 Civil Rights Data Collection and the 2015-16 Common Core of Data.

Michigan Must Improve for All Students

For Michigan to become a top ten education state, all Michigan students must be supported to succeed in school and in life. School counselors play a critical role for helping students navigate complex education systems, post-secondary options and a wide range of challenges in and outside of the school building.

As Michigan works to address gaps in access to school counselors – as well as many other issues within the state’s education system – advocates and leaders must remain focused on equity – and ensuring that resources, like school counselors, are leveraged to provide Michigan students with the resources and supports that they need to succeed.

*This statistic and the analyses that follow are based upon The Education Trust analysis of data from the 2015-16 Civil Rights Data Collection and the 2015-16 Common Core of Data.