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Hellgate High School students discuss stigma of going to hometown college

Story part of Scripps National News Literacy Project
Posted at 2:35 PM, Jan 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-28 16:35:45-05

KPAX teamed with the Hellgate High School journalism class for a story about students reported by students as part of National News Literacy Week .

As college choices are made, what do you do when your hometown is home to a university? That's the question they posed to their peers.

As the University of Montana struggles with enrollment, across the state, Montana State University enjoys record numbers of students in the classroom. And as hundreds of Missoula high school students get ready to make their college decision, they wonder if their hometown college is good enough.

While Hellgate senior Maia Decker’s high school life is very busy with orchestra and her studies, her college plans are still up in the air. She’s been wait-listed at an Ivy League school, and is eager to leave her hometown for college.

“While it may make sense to stay in your hometown for, say, in-state tuition, or maybe you do genuinely just really love the university that your hometown has, there is this fact that you’re never gonna, you know, perhaps experience what a lot of people get from college which is being able to leave your hometown and find out things about yourself that you wouldn’t be able to find out if you were staying here,” Decker said.

Junior Zara Morris, who hasn’t decided on a college yet, agrees with Maia. “A lot of it comes from, like, the idea that the schools in-state aren’t as good as, say, a school in California or on the east coast.”

UM President Seth Bodnar on the other hand, disagrees with that perception, arguing that UM provides a top-notch education, regardless of where students grow up.

“You can have an experience just like being out of town right here in Missoula," Bodnar said. "In fact, the head of our alumni association has had three kids come through here and he says ‘You know, I’ll go months sometimes without seeing them.”

President Bodnar acknowledges that some students don’t recognize how great the University of Montana is due to its close proximity to Hellgate High School, just a few blocks away.

“Sometimes it's easy to overlook the incredible, world class university that’s less than a mile from where you went to high school, and you think ‘I wanna go out,’ but this is a great deal for Montana residents.”

“It's this idea that, you know, if you go to UM you’re not really changing that much about your life, especially, you know, say you’re someone like me who’s grown up in Missoula their entire life," commented Decker.

Junior Aidan Serviss feels that although attending an out of state college sounds exciting, it can be scary for many students leaving their hometown.

“Most people I talk to, they say that they really want to get out of Missoula for college, and that’s fair, but going away from a place that you’ve potentially been for all 18 years of your life... that’s a big jump.”

Pressure regarding student's college decisions will start ramping up as we begin second semester this week, with graduation just five months away.

Reporting by the Hellgate Lance Newspaper