ERIC Identifier: ED315707 Publication Date: 1990-00-00
Author: Pulliams, Preston Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Counseling and Personnel Services Ann Arbor MI.
The Emerging Role of the Community College Counselor.
Highlights: An ERIC/CAPS Digest.
The changing characteristics of students attending community colleges and the
decline in financial support for community colleges have redefined the role of
counseling in the community college. In the 1950s and 1960s, counselors served
an "in loco parentis" role (Leach, 1984), providing personal counseling,
vocational guidance, and social support for the traditional community college
student. In the 1970s and 1980s, ethnic minorities, older women, part-time
students, and displaced workers began enrolling in community colleges. To meet
the needs of these new students, community colleges are reinstating testing and
placement, dismissal and probation policies, general education requirements, and
select admissions programs.
The emerging role of counseling involves helping students to complete their
academic objectives; the reduction of student attrition is a priority.
Counselors must perform the roles of student developers and learning agents
(Noel & Levitz, 1984). As the student developers, counselors must
communicate to students the importance of skill building and other academic
requirements and help them understand the value of their academic endeavors. As
learning agents, counselors must assist, manage, and encourage students to build
a pattern of success. Crucial characteristics that community college counselors
need to be successful include a strong sense of professional mission, rapport,
and empathy. Community college counselors must serve as student advocates and
promote strategies for increasing minority student retention. The increase in
non-traditional students coupled with a decrease in resources forces counselors
to take more cost effective approaches to their counseling.
As student developers, counselors should
assume the responsibility of communicating to students the importance of
academics in vivid and realistic terms. The goals for the student developer
should be to provide counseling, information, and support services to meet the
students' developmental needs. The objectives should be as follows: - To assist
each interested student in making informed and realistic decisions in the areas
of educational and career choices. - To provide services that reflect the
understanding that student development includes social, intellectual,
psychological, and ethical development. - To provide credit courses, seminars,
group discussions, and one-on-one opportunities to assist in making realistic
career and educational decisions.
A useful activity for the student developer is to design courses to help
entering students define why they are in college, determine what they want from
the college experience, and correlate their educational goals with career
selection. These courses can benefit students by improving their retention,
increasing their internalized locus of control, and enhancing intrinsic
motivation (Mitchell & Young, 1979). According to Mitchell and Young (1979),
these courses should be structured with sequential units providing information
and exercises which require students to: 1. Familiarize themselves with college
services in the area of advisement, financial aid, career planning, counseling, library resources, and job placement; 2. Assess their academic skills and weaknesses;
3. Learn to allocate their time effectively; 4. Articulate their expectation of
the college and their tentative career choices; 5. Delineate their educational goals; 6. Establish a plan to
achieve these goals; 7. Select relevant courses; and, 8. Develop a tentative
schedule for the following semester.
As a learning agent, the counselor is
required to assist, manage, and encourage students to build a pattern of
success. To be effective in this role, the counselor should be a central part of
the primary intake and processing services such as registration, advising,
orientation, test interpretation, and career planning. According to Lowe (1980),
students receiving preregistration counseling had more satisfaction with their
initial program of study and withdrew at a lower rate than non-counseled groups.
In addition, students receiving only perfunctory counseling had significantly more program changes, withdrew at a higher rate, and failed to return for the second quarter at a higher rate than did the students who underwent preregistration counseling. (Lowe, 1980)
Counselor services should meet the needs of those entering students by
providing each student complete information and preparation for entry into
appropriate courses. Some of the viable activities include: 1. Assessing student
ability by using placement tests and interest inventories; 2. Assisting in establishing or clarifying education and career goals; and, 3. Helping students use college resources to meet their expectations.
Creative approaches for the learning agent can also have the counselor
working with prospective college students before they enroll in the institution.
They can offer and participate in life planning and career decision-making
seminars to assist individuals in making decisions about future career and
educational options and also prepare an overall plan concerning their future
goals for living (Pulliams, 1989). These seminars and workshops can be offered
to prospective students throughout the community at community junior and senior
high schools, GED programs, churches, and community-based organizations.
Minority students are a critical population for the learning agent. They are
more likely to live in poor socioeconomic conditions, less likely to have solid
college preparatory experiences, and are more often subjected to factors that
unduly interfere with their academic achievement and personal development.
Seerley (1985) describes a program providing a satisfying intake process for
this population. The program was designed to invite each student to participate,
ensure they were aware of the services available at the college, provide special
help situations and opportunities, focus on retention, and have each participant
maintain a 2.00 GPA.
Effective community college counselors must possess certain crucial
characteristics in order to be successful learning agents (Keller, 1983). One of
the most important will be a strong sense of professional mission. Involved in
this sense of mission should be a drive to help others and the belief that
students can achieve all that they are capable of becoming. Now more than ever,
rapport, the ability to develop favorable relationships with staff and students,
will be mandatory for the new counseling role. Counselors will also have to
possess empathy, the ability to understand what students are experiencing. A
special perception of students will be needed by counselors: the ability to
think in terms of the individual students and how their individual strengths and
needs can be accommodated and tied into the challenges of the institution.
COST EFFECTIVENESS AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT
A decline in
financial support for community colleges caused by cutbacks from federal, state,
and local funding complements the aforementioned community college population
changes. Consequently, the future role of counseling must address the challenge
of reviewing traditional counseling activities and addressing the needs of the "new" community college population. It will also demand more careful managing of
current personnel and fiscal resources and even an integrated organizational
approach when community college counselors use community-based organizations for
Careful management of resources means that there must be more use of cost
effective approaches for counseling. Some of the methods that should be
considered are: 1. Expanding counseling services by establishing linkages with other service professionals within the college and the community. 2. Setting up cost effective personnel resources such as volunteer corps, peer counselors, and paraprofessionals. 3. Examining the establishment
of fees for some services. 4. Reviewing counseling services each year to examine
effectiveness and readjusting those services as needed. 5. Becoming familiar with new
resource management approaches through professional organizations' workshops and seminars.
As part of the cost effective delivery of counseling services, computer
software and hardware are playing more critical roles. Viable and appropriate
computer utilization is becoming more common. Computers are especially useful in
providing occupational and educational information to students.
Evening and part-time students place additional pressure on counseling
resources. Creamer (1979) focuses on serving this group through the use of the
following activities: self-help materials and activities; noncredit courses to
deliver counseling services; and a collaboration among selected professionals to
deal with the problem of counseling part-time and evening students.
The emerging role of community college counseling
is actually an expansion of traditional roles: Community college counselors are
becoming learning agents, student developers, and resource managers. This
expansion of responsibilities is being activated by the influx of "new," nontraditional college students into the nation's community colleges and by
declining resources caused by internal budget reductions and declining support
from governmental sources.
Creamer, D. G. (1979). Meeting counseling needs
of part-time students through community service management strategies. Community Service Catalyst, 9(3), 14-17.
Keller, G. (1983). Academic strategy: The management revolution in American higher education. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
Leach, E. R. (1984). Toward the future vitality of student development services. Iowa City, IA: American College Testing.
Lowe, I. D. (1980, April). Preregistration counseling: A comparative study. Paper presented at the California Community and Junior College Association, Monterey, CA. (ED 187 379)
Mitchell, C., & Young, W. (1979, October). A course approach to academic advising. Paper presented at the National Conference on Academic Advising of the National Academic Advising Association, Omaha, NE. (ED 192 833)
Noel, L., & Levitz, R. (1984). Toward the future vitality of student development services. Iowa City, IA: American College Testing.
Pulliams, P. (1989, September). The community college of Philadelphia's Minority Education Initiative Program. Report on the Minority Education Initiative Program at the Community College of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA.
Seerley, N., & Webb, D. (1985). Gainesville Junior College minority advising program report, 1984-85. Gainesville, GA: Gainesville Junior College. (ED 257 508)