OU hoping to help solve licensed school counselor shortage

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NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR) - Oklahoma's schools are in a little-known crisis.

Officials say there is currently a shortage of licensed professional counselors.

According the State Department of Education's Fiscal Year 21 Budget Request, our state needs an additional 1,000 licensed school counselors to reach the recommended ratio of 250 to one.

At the University of Oklahoma, they are encouraging more folks to join this field to help today's youth.

In schools across the country, there's a need for something you can't find in a textbook- peace.

"It seems to be more intense issues than ever before," said Rockey Robbins, professor of professional counseling at OU.

He says he's seen changes since getting his degree in the 1980s.

"The violence that is in schools, the drug and alcohol problems that are in schools," Robbins said.

In the midst of those problems, there's another issue; a lack of licensed professional counselors to talk with students about them.

"The Board of Regents has named it as one of the important needs we have in our schools today," Robbins said.

He says many teachers who try to become counselors without specific training aren't properly prepared to deal with ethics, family needs, and making referrals.

At OU, they've now moved counseling classes to the evening, offering a working adult-friendly, part-time four-year option.

If a teacher has their master's degree and wants to get into counseling, the path simplifies.

"They can come with five classes, either online, coming in the summer or at night classes, they can qualify to become a school counselor," said Robbins. "Then others that want to come in and do the whole program in 45 hours."

Robbins says the best part of this career is helping students find inner peace.

"Adolescents are in this stormy time of their lives and to have an adult to talk to that can be a security base for them to relate to. It can change people's lives," he said.

The program also offers a grant that can be used to forgive student loans.

If you go on to teach at a Title 1 (high-needs) school every year you're there, you can have student loans forgiven up to $8,000.

For more information, visit the Educational Psychology Department's website.

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