SOUTH CAROLINA — Data from the American School Counselor Association shows that South Carolina does not meet the recommended ratio of students to counselors.

The recommended ratio is 250 students per one counselor. However, only two states do meet the recommendation.

“We need school counselors, school psychologists, school social workers,” Jill Cook, executive director of the American School Counselor Association.

Student mental health is being placed at the forefront more often. But in order to reach those needs, the proper resources need to be available. Research shows for every school counselor, there should be 250 students.

In South Carolina, that number sits at 336, but it’s better than the national average of 415. 

“One part of it is about having enough of these folks in schools to support students and staff, but then the other piece is ensuring that they’re developing goals using data and have a comprehensive program,” Cook said.

In Horry County Schools, the high school level has about 60 school counselors. Roughly 55 are staffed at the middle-school level and about 45 at the elementary level.

“There is a bit of misperception for some, about what today school counselors do,” Cook said. “Every student should have a school counselor because they work with all students in a school on academic development, career development, and that social and emotional development.”

Cook said in addition to the ongoing teacher shortage, for the first time nationally, they’re seeing a school counselor shortage as well.

“It’s not everywhere across the country, but the fact is we’re not graduating enough students in school counseling to fill existing positions in all states,” she said.

In a recent conference, Cook said about a third of their sessions were about student mental health. She said that’s what they’re seeing as a need from school counselors across the country. 

“We as an association are really continuing to try and provide some of that professional development to ensure that school counselors have the information and the skills and the resources they need to help support students,” she said.

Cook added that while it is about the numbers and proper staffing in schools, these counselors still need to have the skills and degrees to be able to implement a school counseling program effectively.