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SALT LAKE CITY — One Utah lawmaker is working on a bill that would bring more counselors to high schools. She says students need a lot more help getting into college.
Last fall, House District 36 Rep. Patrice Arent (D) was assigned to a task force designed to finding out why women in Utah don't graduate from post-secondary education at the same rate as men. She found that the problems started way before college.
One of the bigger problems they noticed is how overworked guidance counselors are.
"They had over 360 students per counselor, but that actually was artificially brought down by some of the rural schools, so some of them had way more than that," Arent said.
She says the nationally recommended limit is 250 students per counselor. Despite how heavy their workloads are, she says counselors still do a great job. However, with that many students to care for, some problems are bound to pop up.
Students need help. They need help to understand the admissions process. They need a lot of help to understand what scholarships they might apply for, and how to do the best job in terms of the application.
–Rep. Patrice Arent
"Many of them don't have the time to give the students what they really need," she said. "So, these students get really limited help."
Arent is working on a bill that would bring more counselors to Utah's high schools. It would create a program that would allow college students in master's programs to work as specialized counselors. These master's students would get specific training to help younger students find and apply for the right kinds of scholarships, as well as getting into the right schools.
"Students need help," Arent said. "They need help to understand the admissions process. They need a lot of help to understand what scholarships they might apply for, and how to do the best job in terms of the application."
However, this proposal wouldn't happen for free. Arent estimates that an investment of $800,000 would pay for 18 new counselor positions, someone to supervise the pilot program as well as provide for their training and allow them to track the results.
"We're going to be gathering the data, seeing the graduation rates and seeing how this affects scholarships. I think that's really important," she said.
She believes a program like this can do wonders for students in Utah. She says Utah's students should be getting scholarships at the same rate as students in other states.