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TOO many Washington kids are dropping through the cracks between high school and college. The state ranks a dismal 46th in the nation for graduates pursuing higher education.

That must change — and there’s a simple solution at hand.

Washington schools need more guidance counselors trained to help students navigate the complex college-application process.

A recent Seattle Times Education Lab news report showcased the success of Rainier Scholars, a Seattle-based out-of-school program that coaches
disadvantaged students from the fifth grade through high school. So far, all of its nearly 200 graduates have enrolled in a four-year institution.

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Rainier Scholars’ brand of intensive preparation, focused attention, leadership development and encouragement ought to be incorporated into every school.

Washington’s education leaders
should look toward school counselors to help reverse the state’s low college-going rates, a detriment to the state’s future work force.

Now most counselors lack time and formal training to help students apply for college admissions, financial aid and scholarships. Each counselor is assigned an average of 510 students per year — way too many. Administrators should rearrange resources to lower that ratio. More important, they must provide counselors with professional development and give them time to work with students
on college prep.

Partnerships are critical. As reported by Claudia Rowe, the National College Advising Corps — a program similar to Teach for America — is expanding nationwide. Washington districts should welcome the Corps’ college graduates on campuses to mentor students and nudge them to meet deadlines.

Similar coaching programs have started throughout the region, from Treehouse, College Access Now, the College Success Foundation and Upward Bound.

These promising but patchwork efforts should be coordinated and integrated into the schools.

Careful alignment of existing counseling resources would be a game-changer for many students, the difference between a life of struggle or opportunity.

Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Erik Smith, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).

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