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Michigan high school counselors to get training in college and career advice

Michigan high school counselors will be required to have training in college advising and career counseling, under a law expected to be signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Rick Snyder.

Advocates of the new requirement see it as a step toward addressing Michigan’s poor record on college attainment, a stance supported by education experts interviewed by Bridge, and in a survey of state residents by The Center for Michigan, Bridge’s parent organization.


Michigan ranks in the bottom half of states in adult college attainment. Michigan would need 287,328 more adults to hold a bachelor’s degree or higher just to reach the national average. Those with a bachelor’s degree earn, on average, 70 percent more than those with a high school diploma ($1,108 per week versus $651 per week).

Just raising Michigan to the national average in college attainment, then, could add $6.8 billion to the state economy.

Counselors are now required to get 150 hours of professional development training every five years. The new law requires 25 of those hours to be in college preparation and selection, and 25 hours in career counseling. The new requirement takes effect in two years.

House Bill 4181 passed the Senate unanimously Oct. 17, and the House 101-6 Oct. 24.

“Kids who are preparing for the professional world need to know that there are plenty of different options available to them,” said Rep. Brett Roberts, R-Eaton Township, who sponsored the bill.

“There are thousands of career opportunities in Michigan’s skilled trade industries. These careers pay well, have great security, and allow recent graduates to kickstart their professional lives right out of high school. This legislation will give school counselors the tools that they need to properly prepare students for the career that suits them best.”

Patrick O’Connor, assistant dean of college counseling at Cranbrook Kingswood School in Bloomfield Hills and a past president of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, has lobbied for a college and career advising training requirement for high school counselors for years.

“HB 4181 will give school counselors the information they’ve asked for that will keep them on top of the latest career and college trends in Michigan,” O’Connor said. “Inclusion of this counselor-specific professional development will help students create bright futures that will be based on their best talents, all while advancing Michigan’s economy.”

Equipping high school counselors to better dispense college and career advice is also a priority for Michigan residents. In 2015 Community Conversations conducted by The Center for Michigan, two-thirds of residents surveyed rated college and career advice in high schools as “lousy” or “terrible,” findings shared by a majority of K-12 educators.  

But extra training may not help if counselors don’t have enough time to use that training. Michigan has one of the worst student-to-counselor rates in the nation. As Bridge has reported, the Michigan College Advising Corps tries to fill that gap by placing college advisors in low-income and rural high schools where college-going rates are low.

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