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Study Suggests Rural Students Lacking Career Guidance in School

14% of rural school districts do not have access to a guidance counselor. (Adobe Stock)
14% of rural school districts do not have access to a guidance counselor. (Adobe Stock)
August 1, 2019

INDIANAPOLIS – About one-in-four public school students in Indiana attends a rural school, and new research suggests they need more assistance in career development.

A paper co-authored by Diana Quintero, a research analyst with the Brown Center on Education Policy, finds that while rural students are more likely to graduate high school than those in urban areas, rural students have lower college enrollment rates.

Quintero says one factor is that 14% of schools in rural areas do not have access to a school counselor, who can provide information to students about career or post-secondary academic options.

She says limited budgets of rural schools make it difficult for counselors to focus solely on advising students.

"They spend less time on career guidance and more time on administrative tasks,” she points out, “because they're isolated, lots of rural schools can share a school counselor. They have to go from two different places. That makes a challenge."

Quintero says research found the presence of one additional counselor in a school was associated with an increase of 10 percentage points in four-year college enrollment.

Indiana's student-to-counselor ratio averaged 541-to-one between 2004 and 2015, more than double the American School Counselor Association recommendation of 250 students per school counselor.

The research calls for additional funding to allow rural schools to hire more full-time and experienced counselors.

Quintero says rural communities also could leverage the resources and knowledge of their own residents.

"Rural students are very close to their communities and they have tight connections so they might go for college and come back and help their communities,” she states. “They could provide that guidance to rural students by going to high schools."

The research also encourages the development of community partnerships, including churches, public social service agencies and other organizations that can assist students with college applications, financial-aid documents and scholarship information.

Indiana has the eighth highest population of rural students in the U.S.

Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service - IN