Jacques Steinberg’s article “For Hire for Hundreds of Dollars, or Thousands, Independent Counselors Proliferate” http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/19/education/19counselor.html?_r=1 describes the booming market produced by prospective students and their families, who are interested in creating more competitive college applications for admission at highly selective colleges and universities. 

The article does not address a much more important problem in U.S. college admissions.  In our public high schools, there are not enough college counselors to help students navigate to college. While the National Association of College Admissions Counselors recommends a ratio of 100 students per counselor, in practice, the average student to counselor ratio in United States public high schools is 478:1 (NACAC, 2004).   Compounding the problem, these counselors spend an average of only 39% of their time on college advising. For most students, the K-12 college counseling system lacks the capacity to complete a college education.

 In addition to our schools’ counseling capacity issue, many students do not have social structures to support their pursuit of college.  In fact, there is a tragic loss of talent among those students who are academically qualified to attend college and whose families are in the bottom quartile of family income.   Approximately 50% of these students do not complete one college application (Carnevale & Rose, 2003, Plank & Jordan, 1998).

Rather than focus on the controversial fortunes of a few high priced independent counselors and their privileged students, we should look for ways to provide more assistance to qualified students, who might not effectively complete the college application process due to the current shortage of social and institutional support.


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