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Education

White House Conference For High School Counselors Kicks Off At SDSU

Hundreds of school counseling professionals from 32 states listen to a video message from first lady Michelle Obama about the value of school counseling programs.
Matthew Bowler
Hundreds of school counseling professionals from 32 states listen to a video message from first lady Michelle Obama about the value of school counseling programs.

More than 400 representatives from 32 states convened Monday at San Diego State University for a two-day White House conference aimed at helping high school counselors motivate more students to get college degrees.

Laura Owen, one of the conference organizers and assistant professor at SDSU, said California's counselor-to-student ratio of 1 to 1,000 has to be lowered.

"If we’re really going to support students that’s a ridiculous task to expect our counselors in California to have a thousand students on their case load," Owen said.

San Diego Unified School District has a high school counselor-to-student ratio of 1 to 459 — better than the state average but still well over the 1 to 250 ratio recommended by the American School Counselor Association.

The conference got underway with a a welcome message from first lady Michelle Obama. She emphasized the importance of a good education, which in today's world, means going beyond high school, she said.

"I know that if we truly want to help our young people reach their college dreams, we need to support our school counselors," Obama said. "Our young people have so much potential, and they need someone in their lives who (believes) in them, and who can show them the steps they need to take to get to college."

In January, President Barack Obama outlined a higher education initiative to improve college affordability, lower student debt and remove barriers to competition and innovation. The Obamas want to see more young people earning college degrees.

The conference includes representatives of the White House's College Opportunity Agenda and the first lady's Reach Higher Initiative.

Eric Waldo, the Reach Higher executive director, and Greg Darnieder, senior advisor for the U.S. Department of Education's College Access Initiative, are the featured speakers. A similar event was held at Harvard University over the summer.