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Grant Increases the Number of Schools Utilizing Online Counseling Software




Contact: Sandy Connolly, Director of Communications
Office of Higher Education
(651) 259-3902

A ninth-grader whose geometry grade suddenly declines may now get an e-mail summons from their school counselor, asking them to stop by for a consultation. Such targeted and timely communications have become difficult in recent years as school counselors serve a growing number of students, but new technology is making it easier for counselors to keep track of student progress and help them plan for college.

A federal grant awarded to Minnesota has helped more than 130 schools adopt comprehensive online counseling software to help them serve students more efficiently. The new software and training is helping counselors and teachers track student progress, communicate with students and families and develop career, academic and postsecondary plans for every student.

"Counselors are called upon to help an increasing number of students make good academic choices and plan for postsecondary education," said Dave Metzen, director of the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. "This kind of technology and training empowers counselors to manage and target their counseling work effectively to serve each student in a more customized way."

The federal grant of $735,000 was part of a $66 million federal College Access Challenge Grant awarded to states in late 2008 for strategies to improve college access particularly for low-income students. Each state had an opportunity to apply for the funds and nearly all states received a grant prorated to the state's population size. As the fiscal agent for the Minnesota grant, the Office of Higher Education identified counseling technology as one of three focus areas, with the majority of the funding designated to assist schools in adopting technologies to help counselors reach more students effectively with consistent information and guidance. Approximately $300,000 of the $735,000 Minnesota grant was designated to help schools purchase software and receive training for Naviance software, which Minnesota counselors identified as the most comprehensive product available.

Naviance is a national provider of planning and advising software systems for schools across the United States and in 60 countries. The software helps counselors consolidate and organize the information needed to work with students into one Web interface. It provides workflow tools for planning schedules, reviewing student progress, managing college applications and other activities. It incorporates sophisticated group e-mail features and data analysis tools that enable counselors to quickly identify students needing specific interventions and reach them with targeted messages. The career planning components of the software provide age-appropriate on-line assessments, features to help guide career exploration activities, as well as detailed multimedia career profiles, up-to-date wage data and more.

"Students from all regions of Minnesota are benefitting from this initiative," said Jim Bierma, lead counselor for Minneapolis Public Schools and president of the American School Counselors Association. "This grant will help our young people find careers that match their interests, skills and personality types. The students will then create a rigorous academic and postsecondary plan so they can reach their desired profession."

Participating schools are supported by ongoing regional training sessions and webinars conducted by Naviance staff to help counselors maximize their use of this new tool. In addition, the Minnesota Association for College Admission Counseling provides regional user group sessions for all Naviance users to improve their on-site management of the school counseling office as part of this statewide initiative.

The other two focus areas of the federal grant are counselor training and an informational outreach initiative to low-income students and families.

The Minnesota Office of Higher Education is a cabinet-level state agency providing students with financial aid programs and information to help them gain access to postsecondary education. The agency serves as the state's clearinghouse for data, research and analysis on postsecondary enrollment, financial aid, finance and trends.

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