December 6, 2023

Diving Overview:

  • Students are more likely to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and receive need-based grants when they meet with high school counselors about college financial aid, according to longitudinal study of more than 23,000 students who were 9th graders in 2009, a National Center for Education Statistics data point released last month shows.
  • For students planning college, 87% of those who met with a counselor completed the FAFSA, compared to 59% of those who did not.
  • A message highlighting the role counselors play comes in the background shortage of national school counselors at the same time, some states and districts are using emergency pandemic funding to bolster counseling programs.

Diving statistics:

For students who met with a counselor and whose parents had a high school diploma or less, 83% completed the FAFSA, compared to 49% who did not meet with a counselor. For those students whose parents had a bachelor’s degree or higher, 89% of those who met with an advisor completed the FAFSA, compared to 65% who did not meet with an advisor.

NCE research found that among 9th graders who attended college in 2016-17, a higher percentage who met with a high school counselor about financial aid received need-based college grants. The researchers found no measurable difference in merit-based grant awards based on high school financial aid counselor meetings.

The survey, conducted by the analytics company Ipsos in April and May 2022, found the percentage of students FAFSA application increased from 68% in 2020–21 to 70% in 2021–22. Families reported paying an average of $25,313 for college in the 2021–22 academic year, according to an Ipsos survey.

US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona called for better integration of pre-K-12 and college systems during a January speech. “For too many students, the gaps between the systems are too great to overcome.” Cardona he said.

During the pandemic, counselors noted that they spent less time on career counseling and more time addressing students’ social-emotional needs and connecting students to social service resources.

Teachers also reported giving less college and career advice to students during the pandemic, according to the U.S. Department of Education November instructions on using money from emergency aid for elementary and middle schools to expand postsecondary colleges and career pathways.

These guidelines describe how local and state school systems can use ESSER funding to develop and expand opportunities for postsecondary success, including career and college counseling and academic endeavors.

For example, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction used ESSER funds to add more staff to the National College Advising Corps. These counselors are recent college graduates who work full-time at high schools by helping arrange college visits and helping students complete the FAFSA.

The state hopes to increase the number of underrepresented, low-income or first-generation postsecondary degree or certificate students who attend and complete postsecondary education, according to Department of Education guidelines.

In New York, the Board of Education used ESSER funds to expand its Immigrant Ambassador program, in which immigrant college students mentor immigrant high school students in college and career planning. The city also provides after-school college counseling to every junior and senior high school student, the guidelines state.

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