USC Aiken expands with on-campus high school
On August 20th, USC Aiken made room for a new four-year public high school containing honor students from the Aiken County school districts.
According to the press-release statement from USC Aiken: “An initial class of 50 of the brightest 9th-grade students throughout the county will make up the first cohort for the academy. Students will attend classes at the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center. Enrollment will be expanded each year by an additional 50 students until reaching a maximum enrollment of 200 students during the fourth year.” To add, the students that attend ASA could also receive 48 to 60-credit hours while they attend the honor’s high school.
At first, I was skeptical about finding out about the university’s partnership with the Aiken County School Board. Out of my own curiosity, I decided to commute to school that morning to witness the students arriving on campus.
I soon discovered that the first day at the Aiken Scholar’s Academy wasn’t a total disaster, but it was rather well-organized. However, when I saw the students arrive at the campus, I could easily sense the anxiety and nervousness radiate from the students.
In all honesty, I felt bad and empathetic for the freshmen students. It isn’t every day that someone becomes a freshman in an honors high school, where you are secluded from the social scene featured in other public high schools. I empathized with these students because, in high school, I was the awkward, smart girl that felt alone.
Whether the university students like it or not, we have and will continue to influence the high-school students. Up until recently, most USC Aiken students never had to worry about how they represent the university, nor did they ask to be idols for these students. Please note that I, for one, am not against our future students taking classes here at USC Aiken.
Yet, the convergence of the university and the high school raises questions from our own students. The idea of collaborating both a university and a four-year high school on an extremely small campus is absurd regarding the setup of our campus. The parking lots on campus quickly fill up and it often leaves commuter students struggling to get a parking space in the area they need to be at in time for classes. This could create more challenges and possible hazards to all students alike commuting to school.
In one conversation I had with Victor Duran, the Department Chair of Languages, he mentioned that “the Fire Marshal makes precise restrictions to how many students can be in one class at a time; we usually have to cap off at twenty-five students in most classroom settings.”
Another problem that most of the student body is unaware of is the lack of instructors on campus. Most of our professors on campus may teach up to four or five sections of one class and they also may teach various levels of classes at a time. With the addition of the high school and other dual-enrolling students, it will be extremely challenging to get into classes we need to graduate unless the university itself hires more instructors, build another building to provide classes to students or create different time schedules for instructors and students.
For the ASA students and other high-schoolers reading this article, I am not blaming you at all. This situation is quite new for college students that are used to how the university was set up. I want to congratulate the students who made it to the Aiken Scholar’s Academy; I see great potential from all of you and I know you will all do well here on campus.
As for my fellow university classmates, take something from this: please be empathetic towards these students. Please remember that we were all once freshmen in high school and that at some point in high school, we felt out-of-place. Instead of being frustrated at these students, take that energy and use it to welcome them to our university or just be kind to them.