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WA Develops Standards for Often-Overlooked College Counselors

Standards for counselors at Washington state's 34 community and technical colleges vary widely among the schools. (Adobe Stock)
Standards for counselors at Washington state's 34 community and technical colleges vary widely among the schools. (Adobe Stock)
January 10, 2020

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Counselors play an integral role in helping and guiding students, and can even prevent them dropping out. This year, standards will finally be developed for Washington's community and technical college counselors.

Last year, lawmakers approved a task force for this purpose, which held its second meeting this week.

Earl Martin, a counselor at Everett Community College and task force member, says community and technical colleges grew out of the K-12 system. However, while K-12 developed best practices for counselors, Martin says these colleges have not.

"As it is now, there's a tremendous amount of variance that's really hard to defend and explain," says Martin, "where you have community and technical colleges just even a short distance from each other that are dramatically different in the level of care that they provide to their students."

The task force goal is to identify best practices, minimum qualifications and staffing ratios, which currently are set at 900 students per counselor. Along with four counselors, the task force also includes one student.

Community and technical college enrollees account for nearly 60% of all post-secondary students in Washington. Martin says many students who might not be able to afford college otherwise get a chance through this system of 34 colleges across the state.

"With more support, a minimum level of access to quality services, we think that we could maximize this great vision of opportunity," says Martin. "And social justice, really. Because it's an opportunity for people who, historically, have not been able to access higher education."

The task force must submit its recommendations to the Legislature by November.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA