Over a third of Athens High School’s 2020 graduating class opted to stay in their hometown and attend Ohio University this year.

Jim Sabin, university spokesperson, said OU’s class of 2024 contained 76 students from AHS. That number, taken alongside AHS’ 2020 graduating class of 197 students, represents about 39% of those students. 

Chad Springer, principal of AHS, said many students are also attending OU while still in high school through dual enrollment programs.

“As of right now, we are looking at, probably, 120 to 140 students who either attend … Hocking College or OU or Washington State or University of Rio Grande,” Springer said. 

Students who complete dual-enrollment programs in high school may be more likely to attend the university that they earn the college credit through, Springer said, since they are already familiar with the curriculum and faculty. This may lead many students from AHS to attend OU in future years.

Many factors other than familiarity play into one’s decision to attend OU from AHS.

Maya Djalali-Gomez, a freshman studying translational health with an emphasis on applied nutrition, came to OU because she received free tuition from her parents’ employment at the university. Gomez was also accepted into the Honors Tutorial College, and she said that, combined with free tuition, made OU the best option for her. 

Bozeman Koonce, a freshman studying geography on the globalization and development track, said economic factors are what drove him to OU. Despite wanting to run for another college, Koonce decided it made sense to attend OU after checking out the tuition rate.

“The cheapest any of the other schools would have been was $26,000, for a year,” Koonce said. “And I didn't think that was worth my time just to go run somewhere when I could exercise by myself and save about $20,000.” 

Gomez and Koonce both said there seems to be a stigma surrounding OU at AHS. 

“A lot of people who weren’t going to go to OU kind of assume that everyone who was going to go to OU had no other choice,” Djalali-Gomez said. “And going to OU was kind of looked down upon.” 

Djalali-Gomez also said she feels as though she has to work harder to prove herself now that she is at OU, even if the views of her former classmates are far from accurate.

Koonce agreed with Djalali-Gomez that there is an unfair, unfounded view of OU at AHS. He said it ultimately comes down to different groups. 

“There's these groups of people that if you say you're going to OU they're like, ‘Hh, OK … you're going to do great,’ but with a lot of them, there's this kind of this feeling that you're better than that,” Koonce said. 

Despite the stigma, both Koonce and Djalali-Gomez said OU’s connection to the community is widespread, although Gomez would like to see it even more involved. 

“I have a lot of friends who go to the farmers market… so they know about that part of Athens,” Djalali-Gomez said. “But … they've never gone to The Plains, and they don't really know much about the social history of this place, the history of Appalachia.”

Koonce said OU’s relationship with the community is one of his favorite things about the university. 

“For me, it was kind of like, this is all I have … so why would I lose that and go look for something else when I have perfectly enough (reason) to just stay here?” Koonce said. “It's kind of its own specific identity, and I really connect with that.”