CORVALLIS, Ore. - Oregon State University is addressing the state's need for additional K-12 counselors with a new off-campus master's program in school counseling.

The new master of science in counseling program - offered by the College of Education and delivered in a flexible online and face-to-face format by Oregon State Ecampus - should help bring comprehensive counseling services to all students, increase college attendance rates among underrepresented populations, and increase student success, said OSU President Ed Ray.

"As the state's land-grant university, Oregon State is charged with providing educational opportunities to citizens throughout the state, working with partners across the education continuum," Ray said. "We produce high-achieving graduates who contribute to a healthy economy, and skilled school counselors are critical partners in efforts to provide enriching services to all Oregon students."

Oregon's K-12 school system posted a student-to-counselor ratio of 553 to 1 during the 2010-11 school year, according to the U.S. Department of Education. That's the eighth worst ratio in the nation and more than double the rate recommended by the American School Counselor Association.

Gene Eakin directs the new program, which he says will have a direct impact on the outcome of the state's 40-40-20 education initiative. That goal states that by 2025 40 percent of adult Oregonians will hold a bachelor's or advanced degree, 40 percent will have an associate's degree or a postsecondary certificate, and 20 percent will hold at least a high school diploma or equivalent.

Eakin, who spent 28 years as a K-12 counselor, believes school counselors play a critical role in achieving college and career readiness for all students, particularly those in Oregon's rural counties, where less than 20 percent of people have a bachelor's degree or higher.

"If you want to achieve the 40-40-20 goal, you have to significantly increase the number of school counselors in the state," Eakin said. "Because of our statewide recruitment area, we feel this program has an opportunity to impact the college matriculation out of rural areas."

To provide schedule flexibility for students, half the instruction will be delivered online and half will be conducted in face-to-face classroom meetings, held on weekends twice a term at Chemeketa Community College in Salem. The program will also encourage science, technology, engineering and mathematics career awareness and concerns.

"Math is the gatekeeper for students meeting college entrance requirements," said Eakin, "and if we don't address the STEM anxiety issues, where will our scientists, mathematicians and engineers come from if we don't have as many students entering and graduating from college?"

The program is now accepting students for its 2013 cohort.

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Gene Eakin, 541-737-8551