NCES Blog

National Center for Education Statistics

How Often Do High School Students Meet With Counselors About College? Differences by Parental Education and Counselor Caseload

There are many factors that can affect students’ decisions to apply to college, such as income, school engagement, and coursework.1 Similarly, previous research has reported that students whose parents did not hold a college degree (i.e., first-generation college students) enrolled in college at a lower rate than did peers whose parents held a college degree.2 However, high school counselors may help students choose colleges and apply to them, meaning that students who meet with a counselor about college could be more likely to attend college.3 Counselors may help potential first-generation college students plan for college by providing information that continuing-generation students already have access to via their parents who had attained college degrees themselves. Despite the potential benefits of meeting with a counselor, a school's counselor caseloads may affect its students' counseling opportunities.4

What percentage of high school students met with a counselor about college? How did this percentage vary by parental education and counselor caseload?

Around 47 percent of 2009 ninth-graders were potential first-generation college students whose parents did not hold a college degree (table U1). These students met with a counselor at a lower rate than did students whose parents held a college degree. Figure 1 shows that 72 percent of students whose parents did not hold a college degree met with a counselor, compared with 76 and 82 percent of students whose parents held an associate’s degree and a bachelor’s degree or higher, respectively.


Figure 1. Percentage of students who met with a counselor about college in 2012–13, by average counselor caseload level at the school and parents' highest education level

NOTE: Caseload is a continuous variable based on counselor reports of the average number of students per counselor at the school. Each caseload category accounts for roughly one-third of the sample in the unweighted data. Low caseload refers to counselors responsible for 40 to 299 students, medium caseload refers to counselors responsible for 300 to 399 students, and high caseload refers to counselors responsible for 400 or more students. The category high school degree or less incudes high school diploma or GED and those who started college but did not complete a degree. Respondents who did not know whether they met with a counselor are excluded from the analyses. These represent approximately 8 percent of weighted cases. 
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 (HSLS:09) Base year, First Follow-up, and 2013 update.


During the senior year of most of the cohort of 2009 ninth-graders, the average counselor caseload at schools attended by these students5 was 375 students per counselor. The average caseload at public schools was 388, and the average caseload at private schools was 202.

Students attending schools with low counselor caseloads met with a counselor about college at a higher rate than did students at schools with high counselor caseloads, when comparing students whose parents had similar attainment levels. For example, at schools with low caseloads, 79 percent of students whose parents held a high school degree or less met with a counselor about college, compared with 70 percent of these students at schools with high caseloads. This pattern is also true for students at schools with low caseloads compared with medium caseloads (i.e., 86 vs. 76 percent of students whose parents held an associate’s degree and 89 vs. 81 percent of students whose parents held a bachelor’s degree), except among students whose parents held a high school degree or less (79 percent was not statistically different from 74 percent). Finally, students whose parents held a high school degree or less met with a counselor at a lower rate than did students whose parents held a bachelor’s degree or higher in each caseload category (i.e., 79 vs. 89 percent for low caseload schools, 74 vs. 81 percent for medium caseload schools, and 70 vs. 77 percent for high caseload schools).

For more information about counselor meetings and college enrollment, check out this Data Point: High School Counselor Meetings About College, College Attendance, and Parental Education.

This blog post uses data from the High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 (HSLS:09), a national study of more than 23,000 ninth-graders and their school counselors in fall 2009. Student sample members answered surveys between 2009 and 2016. Sample members or their parents reported on whether the student met with a counselor about college during the 2012–13 school year (most students’ 12th-grade year).

While data presented here are the most recent data available on the topic, NCES will have new data on high schoolers’ experiences in the 2020s coming soon. In particular, data from the High School and Beyond Longitudinal Study of 2022 (HS&B:22), which also includes information about students’ visits to school counselors, is forthcoming.

Until those data are released, we recommend you access HSLS:09 student and counselor data to conduct your own analyses via NCES’s DataLab.

 

By Catharine Warner-Griffin, AnLar, and Elise Christopher, NCES


[1] See, for example, Fraysier, K., Reschly, A., and Appleton, J. (2020). Predicting Postsecondary Enrollment With Secondary Student Engagement Data. Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment, 38(7), 882–899.

[2] Cataldi, E. F., Bennett, C. T., and Chen, X. (2018). First-Generation Students: College Access, Persistence, and Postbachelor’s Outcomes (2018-421). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.

[3] Tang, A. K., and Ng, K. M. (2019). High School Counselor Contacts as Predictors of College Enrollment. Professional Counselor, 9(4), 347–357.

[4] Woods, C. S., and Domina, T. (2014). The School Counselor Caseload and the High School-to-College Pipeline. Teachers College Record, 116(10), 1–30.

[5] These schools are only those sampled in the base year (i.e., students’ 2009 schools).

NCES Provides New Data Table on School District Structures

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has released a new data table (Excel) on local education agencies (LEAs)1 that serve multiple counties. This new data table can help researchers understand how many LEAs exist and break down enrollment by LEA and county.

Variation in School District Structures

The organizing structures for LEAs vary across the United States. In many areas of the country, LEAs share boundaries with counties or cities. In other areas, there are multiple LEAs within a single county. LEAs also can span multiple counties.

The organizing structures for LEAs or school districts reflect the policies and practices of local and state governments and historical trends across many states. For example, there was a large consolidation in LEAs in the last century as the number of regular school districts decreased from 117,100 in 1939–40 to fewer than 14,900 in 2000–01. In contrast to these declines, the numbers of charter schools and charter school agencies operating outside of regular school district and county frameworks have increased over the past 2 decades.2

Impact of Structural Differences in School Districts

These structural differences can make it challenging for researchers to estimate student enrollment by county and drill down into other data. This is important because the structure of LEAs and their relationships to county boundaries can impact the capability of researchers and policy analysts to align existing county and district data in ways that could better inform education policies.3 In addition, these structures can affect the designs of new surveys and research activities. For example, research or data collections on career and technical education (CTE) activities at the district level would need to accommodate structural differences in where CTE activities are typically provided—that is, in general education districts (as is the case in most states) or through separate CTE-focused LEAs.

New Data Table on LEAs Serving Multiple Counties

NCES has taken valuable steps to increase the amount of information available to the research community about funding crossing district lines. In fiscal year 2018, a data item was added to the School District Finance Survey (F-33) that includes current expenditures made by regional education service agencies (RESAs) and other specialized service agencies (e.g., supervisory unions) that benefit the reporting LEA.4

Our recently released data table (Excel)—which shows the prevalence and enrollment size of LEAs that serve multiple counties—will facilitate a better understanding of how RESA expenditures are included in the district-level total current expenditures and current expenditure per pupil amounts displayed in the annual Revenues and Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary School Districts finance tables.

Understanding the New Data Table

The data table uses data from the Common Core of Data (CCD) and Demographic and Geographic Estimates (EDGE) to provide county and student enrollment information on each LEA in the United States (i.e., in the 50 states and the District of Columbia) with a separate row for each county in which the agency has a school presence. The table includes all LEA types, such as regular school districts, independent charter school districts, supervisory union administrative centers, service agencies, state agencies, federal agencies, specialized public school districts, and other types of agencies.

LEA presence within a county is determined by whether it had at least one operating school in the county. School presence within a county is determined by whether there is at least one operating school in the county identified in the CCD school-level membership file. For example, an LEA that is coterminous with a county has one record (row) in the listing. A charter school LEA that serves a region of a state and has a presence in five counties has five records. LEA administrative units, which do not operate schools, are listed in the county in which the agency is located.

In the 2021–22_LEA_List tab, column D shows the “multicnty” (i.e., multicounty) variable. LEAs are assigned one of the following codes:

1 = School district (LEA) is in single county and has reported enrollment.

2 = School district (LEA) is in more than one county and has reported enrollment.

8 = School district (LEA) reports no schools and no enrollment, and the county reflects county location of the administrative unit. 

9 = School district (LEA) reports schools but no enrollment, and the county reflects county location of the schools.

In the Values tab, the “Distribution of local education agencies, by enrollment and school status: 2021–22” table shows the frequency of each of the codes (1, 2, 8, and 9) (i.e., the number of records that are marked with each of the codes in the 2021–22_LEA_List tab):

  • 17,073 LEAs had schools in only one county.
  • 1,962 LEAs had schools located in more than one county and reported enrollment for these schools.
  • 1,110 LEAs had no schools of their own and were assigned to a single county based on the location of the LEA address. (Typically, supervisory union administrative centers are examples of these LEAs.)
  • 416 LEAs had schools located in one county but did not report enrollment for these schools.

 

By Tom Snyder, AIR


[1] Find the official definition of an LEA.

[4] The annual School District Finance Survey (F-33) is collected by NCES from state education agencies and the District of Columbia. See Documentation for the NCES Common Core of Data School District Finance Survey (F-33) for more information.

NCES Presentation at National HBCU Week Conference

In NCES’s recently released Strategic Plan, Goal 3 identifies our commitment to foster and leverage beneficial partnerships. To fulfill that goal, NCES participates in multiple conferences and meetings throughout the year. Recently, NCES participated in the National Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Week Conference. NCES’s presentation at this conference helps us to establish a dialogue with HBCUs and develop partnerships to address critical issues in education.

NCES Commissioner Peggy G. Carr kicked off the presentation with an overview of HBCU data—such as student characteristics, enrollment, and financial aid. Then, NCES experts explored how data from various NCES surveys can help researchers, educators, and policymakers better understand the condition and progress of HBCUs. Read on to learn about these surveys.

 

Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS)

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is an annual administrative data collection that gathers information from more than 6,000 postsecondary institutions, including 99 degree-granting, Title IV–eligible HBCUs (in the 2021–22 academic year).

The data collected in IPEDS includes information on institutional characteristics and resources; admissions and completions; student enrollment; student financial aid; and human resources (i.e., staff characteristics). These data are disaggregated, offering insights into student and employee demographics by race/ethnicity and gender, students’ age categories, first-time/non-first-time enrollment statuses, and full-time/part-time attendance intensity.

Data from IPEDS can be explored using various data tools—such as Data Explorer, Trend Generator, and College Navigator—that cater to users with varying levels of data knowledge and varying data needs.

 

National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS)

The National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS) is a nationally representative study that examines the characteristics of students in postsecondary institutions—including HBCUs—with a special focus on how they finance their education. NPSAS collects data on the percentage of HBCU students receiving financial aid and the average amounts received from various sources (i.e., federal, state, and institution) by gender and race/ethnicity.

Conducted every 3 or 4 years, this study combines data from student surveys, student-level school records, and other administrative sources and is designed to describe the federal government’s investment in financing students’ postsecondary education.

Data from NPSAS can be explored using DataLab and PowerStats.

 

National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS)

The National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS) is the U.S. Department of Education’s primary source of information on K–12 public and private schools from the perspectives of teachers and administrators. NTPS consists of coordinated surveys of schools, principals, and teachers and includes follow-up surveys to study principal and teacher attrition.

Among many other topics, NTPS collects data on the race/ethnicity of teachers and principals. These data—which show that Black teachers and principals make up a relatively small portion of the K–12 workforce—can be used to explore the demographics and experiences of teachers and principals. NTPS provides postsecondary institutions, like HBCUs, a snapshot of the preK–12 experiences of students and staff.

Data from NTPS can be explored using DataLab and PowerStats.

 

National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)—also known as the Nation’s Report Card—is the the largest nationally representative and continuing assessment of what students in public and private schools in the United States know and are able to do in various subjects.

Main NAEP assesses students in grades 4, 8, and 12 in subjects like reading, mathematics, science, and civics, while NAEP Long-Term Trend assesses 9-, 13-, and 17-year-olds in reading and mathematics.

Among many other topics, NAEP collects data on students by race/ethnicity. These data can help to shed light on students’ experiences, academic performance, and level of preparedness before they enroll in HBCUs.

Data from NAEP can be explored using the NAEP Data Explorer.

 

To explore more HBCU data from these and other NCES surveys—including enrollment trends from 1976 to 2021—check out this annually updated Fast Fact. Be sure to follow NCES on X, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube and subscribe to the NCES News Flash to stay up to date on the latest from NCES.

 

By Megan Barnett, AIR

Education at a Glance 2023: Putting U.S. Data in a Global Context

International comparisons provide reference points for researchers and policy analysts to understand trends and patterns in national education data and are very important as U.S. students compete in an increasingly global economy.

Education at a Glance (EAG), an annual publication produced by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), provides data on the structure, finances, and progress of education systems in 38 OECD countries—including the United States—as well as a number of OECD accession and partner countries. Data presented in EAG on topics of high policy interest in the United States are also featured in NCES reports, including the Condition of Education and Digest of Education Statistics.  

The recently released 2023 edition of EAG shows that the United States is above the international average on some measures, such as funding of postsecondary education, but lags behind in others, such as participation in early childhood education and care (ECEC). The 2023 report also features a Spotlight on Vocational Education and Training as well as interactive data dashboards on ECEC systems, upper secondary education systems, and educational support for Ukrainian refugees.


Spotlight on Vocational Education and Training (VET)

Each EAG edition centers on a particular theme of high policy relevance in OECD countries. The focus of this year’s report is VET programs, which look very different in the United States compared with many other OECD countries. Unlike in many OECD countries, most high schools in the United States do not offer a separate, distinct vocational track at the upper secondary (high school) level. Instead, vocational education is available as optional career and technical education (CTE) courses throughout high school. Regardless of whether they choose to take CTE courses, all U.S. students who complete high school have the same potential to access postsecondary programs. In other OECD countries, selecting a vocational track at this level may lead to different postsecondary opportunities. Check out the 2023 EAG Spotlight for an overview of VET programs across OECD countries.


Highlights From EAG 2023

Below is a selection of topics from the EAG report highlighting how key education benchmarks in the United States compare with other OECD countries.


Postsecondary Educational Attainment

The percentage of U.S. 25- to 34-year-olds with a postsecondary degree increased by 13 percentage points between 2000 and 2022, reaching 51 percent (the OECD average in 2022 was 47 percent) (Table A1.3).1 In this age group in the United States, higher percentages of women than men attained a postsecondary degree (56 vs. 46 percent) (Table A1.2). Across OECD countries, the average postsecondary educational attainment gap between 25- to 34-year-old men and women in 2022 (13 percentage points) was wider than the gap in the United States (10 percentage points). In the United States, the postsecondary attainment rate for 25- to 34-year-old men was 5 percentage points higher than the OECD average, and the attainment rate for women was 3 percentage points higher than the OECD average.


Figure 1. Percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds with a postsecondary degree, by OECD country: 2022

[click to enlarge image]

Data include a small percentage of adults with lower levels of attainment.
Year of reference differs from 2022. Refer to the source table for more details.
SOURCE: OECD (2023), Table A1.3. See Source section for more information and Annex 3 for notes.


International Student Enrollment

The United States is the top OECD destination country for international students enrolling in postsecondary education. In 2021, some 833,204 foreign students were enrolled in postsecondary programs in the United States, representing 13 percent of the international education market share (Table B6.1).2 In comparison, the United Kingdom had the second highest number of international students enrolled in postsecondary education in 2021, representing 9 percent of the international education market share. Interestingly, when examining enrollment trends over the past 3 years (2019 to 2021), foreign student enrollment decreased by 143,649 students (15 percent) in the United States but increased by 111,570 students (23 percent) in the United Kingdom. International student enrollment during these years was likely affected by the coronavirus pandemic, which had large impacts on global travel in 2020 and 2021.


Education Spending

U.S. spending on education is relatively high across all levels of education compared with the OECD average. The largest difference is in postsecondary spending, where the United States spent $36,172 per full-time postsecondary student in 2020, the second highest amount after Luxembourg ($53,421) and nearly double the OECD average ($18,105) (Table C1.1).3 This spending on postsecondary education amounts to 2.5 percent of the U.S. GDP, higher than the OECD average (1.5 percent) (Table C2.1). These total expenditures include amounts received from governments, students, and all other sources.


Figure 2. Expenditures per full-time equivalent student, by education level and OECD country: 2020

[click to enlarge image]

1 Year of reference differs from 2020. Refer to the source table for more details.
SOURCE: OECD (2023), Table C1.1. See Source section for more information and Annex 3 for notes.


High School Completion Rate

The United States has a higher upper secondary (high school) completion rate than most other OECD countries. In 2021, some 87 percent of U.S. students completed their high school program in the expected timeframe, compared with the OECD average of 72 percent (Table B3.1).


Early Childhood Education

The level of participation in early childhood education programs in the United States is below the OECD average. In 2021, average enrollment rates across OECD countries were 72 percent for 3-year-olds, 87 percent for 4-year-olds, and 84 percent for 5-year-olds (Table B2.1). In contrast, enrollment rates for students of these ages in the United States were 30 percent for 3-year-olds, 50 percent for 4-years-olds, and 81 percent for 5-year-olds.  

 

Browse the full EAG 2023 report to see how the United States compares with other countries on these and other important education-related topics.

 

By RaeAnne Friesenhahn, AIR, and Cris De Brey, NCES


[1] EAG data for the year 2000 can be accessed via the online OECD Stat database.

[2] Unrounded data in Excel format can be accessed via the StatLink located below each table.

[3] Expenditure in national currencies was converted into equivalent USD by dividing the national currency figure by the purchasing power parity (PPP) index for GDP. For more details on methodology see Annex 2 and Annex 3.

Using Federal Education Data to Inform Policymaking: Part 2–Challenges and Opportunities

In part 1 of this blog series, we highlight the benefits and advantages of using federal education data for policymaking at the federal, state, and district levels. In part 2, we will explore the challenges of and opportunities afforded by using these data.

States, districts, and schools are inundated with requests for data. To manage the volume of requests and avoid overwhelming educators, many districts have established processes to vet and limit the number of surveys allowed in their schools and administrative offices. District clearance processes are also understandably meant to make sure everyone is in compliance with data privacy laws. NCES data collections are sometimes not cleared by district offices, which then means NCES is not allowed to contact schools or educators to learn from their perspectives or experiences.

Since many state or district policymakers prioritize local survey collections, federal surveys are occasionally rejected by district offices that are striving to keep from overburdening their educators with too many survey requests. Without district permission, NCES surveys won’t include the educators in those schools, meaning that those districts’ voices will be missing from the table when decisions are made. This is problematic for the entire education system for a few reasons.

  1. Local data rarely reach federal policymakers. We know state and district decisionmakers derive a lot of value from state and/or district survey collections—since they’re designed to provide detailed local data—and do not always see value in federal data collection and reporting efforts. More localized data are critical to their day-to-day decisions. However, the presence of numerous state-run surveys—in addition to the myriad individualized district surveys that can exist within a single state—has begun to create a data silo where information remains frozen within a state or district system. Since NCES (and therefore the Department of Education and Congress) rarely receives data from state or local collections, these data sources cannot readily be used to generate national policies, which greatly limits opportunities for state and district systems to learn from each other. These data silos can, for example, impact the focus or breadth of federal grants or funding available for schools.

    Federal, state, and district education agencies serve different roles in the education sector but have mutually beneficial responsibilities that should complement and support one another. The solution isn’t to supplant federal data collections with local ones, or vice versa, but instead to supplement local collections with federal collections like the National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS) so education decisionmakers at all levels have access to necessary information to make good decisions for our schools.
     
  2. Benchmarking and comparability are limited. Without federal data collections, it can be difficult or impossible for states, districts, and local policymakers to compare their schools and educators with those in other areas because of the lack of common focus and definitions across data collections. Even if the topics being collected are similar, individualized district or state surveys can differ widely in both content and wording.

    National data collections—like the NTPS—are excellent tools local policymakers should use when setting priorities on behalf of the students and staff in their state or district. Since the data from the NTPS are collected from educators in the same way across the entire country, they can be used to establish benchmarks against which local collections can measure themselves.
     
  3. Lack of participation decreases the representativeness of storytelling. If districts do not approve NCES’s survey research applications, we are unable to reach educators in certain schools, which can limit the kinds of perspectives that are included in the data. To paint a true picture of the education landscape, our survey teams select districts, schools, and/or educators that are as representative of the education field as possible.

    Teachers and principals who participate in NCES studies are grouped in different ways—such as by age, race/ethnicity, or the type of school at which they work—and their information is studied to identify patterns of experiences that people in these different groups may have had. This is what makes our datasets representative, or similar enough to the demographics of the population to able to accurately reflect the characteristics of everyone (even those who aren’t sampled to participate).

    For example, the NTPS is designed to support analysis of a variety of subgroups, such as those by
  • school level (i.e., elementary, middle, high, and combined);
     
  • school community type (i.e., urban, suburban, town, and rural);
     
  • teachers’ and principals’ years of experience in the profession; and
     
  • race/ethnicity of teachers and principals (figure 1).

These diverse subgroups are critically important for both federal and local policymakers who want to make decisions using information that truly represents everyone in the field.


Figure 1. Percentage of K–12 public and private school teachers who reported that they have any control over various areas of planning and teaching in their classrooms, by school type and selected school characteristic: 2020–21 

 

NOTE: Data are weighted estimates of the population. Response options included “no control,” “minor control,” “moderate control,” and “a great deal of control.” Teachers who reported “minor control,” “moderate control,” or “a great deal of control” were considered to have reported having “any control.”
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS), “Public and Private School Teacher Data File,” 2020–21.


Larger datasets allow for more nuanced comparisons by school, principal, or teacher characteristics that aren’t possible in smaller datasets, allowing for more equity in national and local estimates and more distinct answers to key policy questions. But we need district-level support to provide these nuanced data.

Although the NTPS has a fairly large sample to support state representation, it still only includes a small percentage of all schools and educators in the country. Sampling is used to avoid collecting data from all systems, staff, and students, thus helping to limit overall respondent burden on our education system. For this reason, it’s important that all sampled schools and educators participate if selected. Since some districts also have formal review processes—through which a survey must be approved before any schools or educators can be contacted—it is also important that districts with sampled schools grant NCES surveys permission to collect data from their schools.

Both levels of participation will help us collect data that accurately describe a state or population. Otherwise, the story we are telling in the data is only augmenting some voices—and these are the experiences that will be reflected in federal policy and funding.

 

As the education sector strives to understand the needs of students and staff on the tails of the coronavirus pandemic, trustworthy data are only becoming more critical to the decisionmaking process. NCES datasets like the NTPS are critical resources that federal, state, and district policymakers can and have used for benchmarking strategic goals or conducting analyses on how a topic has (or hasn’t) changed over time.

The catch being, of course, that all data on the NTPS—and many other NCES surveys—come directly from schools, principals, and teachers themselves. These analyses and reports are not possible without district and educator participation. While it may seem counterintuitive that any one person could make such a large difference in federal education policy, the concept doesn’t differ from civic duties such as voting in federal or local elections.

Below is a visual summary of this blog post that can be used in your own professional discussions about the importance of participating in federal education surveys.



NCES would like to thank every district, school, administrator, teacher, parent, and student who has previously approved or participated in an NCES survey. We wouldn’t be able to produce our reports and data products without your participation.

We are currently conducting the 2023–24 NTPS to learn more about school and educator experiences following the pandemic. Find more information about the NTPS, including findings and details from prior collections.

 

By Maura Spiegelman and Julia Merlin, NCES