LAUSD high school counselors say they don’t have enough time to help students with college application process
Sarah Favot | August 30, 2017
Counselors at LA Unified high schools say they have enough information to give students about applying for college and financial aid, but what they don’t have is enough time to help students through these processes, according to a new study released Wednesday.
Los Angeles Education Research Institute released a pair of studies on college readiness supports and college enrollment and completion patterns for LA Unified graduates. The studies were conducted in collaboration with researchers from UCLA and Claremont Graduate University with consultation from LA Unified’s central office staff. San Francisco-based College Futures Foundation gave funding for the research.
The report on college enrollment and completion found that 1 in 4 LA Unified graduates finished a college degree within six years as reported last month by LA School Report. One of the recommendations of that study is that the district should strive to ensure that all students graduate with at least a C in their A-G coursework to be eligible for the state’s public universities, an opinion expressed by some school board members. Students now graduate with D’s.
The study examining college supports in LA Unified high schools was based on surveys of high school counselors who worked at traditional and affiliated charter high schools in the 2015-16 school year.
While 77 percent of high school counselors said they have adequate information to give students about completing college and financial aid applications, 41 percent said they don’t have adequate time to help students to complete these applications. A similar pattern was seen in counselors’ responses about helping students through the college registration and enrollment processes.
The average high school counselor caseload at LA Unified is 378 students.
About one-third of students say they need more information and help about college, according to the study.
The studies are the first in-depth analysis of college-related supports for high school students and postsecondary outcomes for LA Unified students.
LA Unified’s Chief Academic Officer Frances Gipson said the district was working alongside with LAERI as it was analyzing data.
Through the work with LAERI, LA Unified has developed a plan to spend a $17 million state grant to increase the number of high school students who enroll in college and complete a bachelor’s degree within four years, particularly for low-income, English learners, and foster youth.
The district is rolling out a technology called Naviance that helps high school students identify their strengths and interests and matches them with colleges that fit their interests and tracks deadlines in the college application process. The program will be used beginning in ninth grade.
“We’re trying to create this complete infrastructure and create capacity around the recommendations,” Gipson said.
Gipson also said the district is trying to get students to think about college beginning in elementary school, to have an “aspirational mindset.”
Counselors reported that 15 percent of their typical workweek is spent helping students with college and financial aid applications.
“The majority of my students need plenty of one-on-one direct help with every component [of the application process]. As a college counselor, I have other responsibilities that take me away from my students at crucial times in the application process,” a counselor was quoted as saying in the study.
The researchers suggested that LA Unified staff such as assistant principals could help counselors to ensure that students have completed college and financial aid applications and enrollment.
“Distributing staff responsibilities for college readiness more broadly may also help nurture the development of a college-going culture in schools, which research suggests is important for enhancing students’ college enrollment,” the researchers wrote.
In a resolution presented to the school board last week, board member Kelly Gonez called for the superintendent to report on the feasibility of making sure there is a college counselor at every high school who could work during the summer to help students transition and enroll in college. It also calls for a Postsecondary Leadership Team at every high school to develop strategies to increase college readiness and access. The resolution is expected to be voted on at next month’s board meeting.
“As many hands on deck to support this work, the better the work will be,” Gipson said.