Local high school grads feel pressure

Robert Taylor

Kent State is saturated throughout the surrounding city as much as any other feature of Kent, and that heritage is very obvious to local high school students at Kent Roosevelt High School.

More than half of its seniors apply to Kent State and it’s one of the university’s top 10 feeder schools. Many students say they feel pressure to attend the local university.

“They expect it just because we live here,” said freshman biochemistry major Samit Datta, a former student at Kent Roosevelt.

Despite the high number of applications for the university, Kent Roosevelt principal Roger Sidoti said the school does not try to purposely favor Kent State as the university of choice for its students.

“We do talk a lot about community,” Sidoti said. “But we give equal access to other universities to come in and meet with our kids. I have a firm belief that it doesn’t matter what college you go to, it’s what you make of it as a student.”

There are several reasons Kent Roosevelt students are attracted to the local university.

The first and, for many, most important factor is money. Children of those employed at the university get free tuition, and with Kent State as the biggest employer in Portage County, a lot of that filters down into the surrounding communities.

“My parents, they said they’d pay if I go to Kent State so I’m going to go to Kent because I don’t want college loans,” said Andrew Alderson, a Kent Roosevelt senior. “One of my friends, he’s in Georgia now, his dad worked for Kent State so his dad was pushing for that. Now my friend has lots of loans.”

Datta agreed with this sentiment, but feels the reasoning behind going to Kent lies deeper than just that.

“Sometimes I think parents have influence on it,” Datta said. “But then for a lot of people, they just come here because it’s here and they can commute and save money on boarding.”

But staying local for the sake of staying local may be cheating freshmen out of a complete college experience.

“Sometimes I worry that (students) don’t see the global picture,” Sidoti said. “There are other opportunities out there.”

Local students can still live on campus and feel close to home, Datta said, which helps them continue their maturing process as college commences.

“What we do is see more students who want to maintain close connections to their family, and, at the same time, experience a world beyond their local community,” said Gary Padak, dean of Undergraduate Studies. “I believe we have enough opportunities at Kent State that you can experience that world.”

Padak noted that a large number of sophomores new to Kent State are local residents who left for college freshman year and then returned home for various reasons.

Also, of course, many high school students apply to Kent State because they think it’s a good university. Alderson and Datta both said many students at Kent Roosevelt feel Kent State is a good university with standout teaching and business programs.

Sidoti also said he feels very strongly about Kent State and it’s value for students.

“Kent State has outstanding programs across the board for kids who really want to learn and apply themselves,” Sidoti said. “On the other side of the coin, one of the things that we have a responsibility to do is to make sure our kids don’t become so inward looking that the end-all is the city of Kent. I’d love for our kids to go away and, if they want, to relocate to Kent and bring back something of value they’ve learned elsewhere.”

Contact public affairs reporter Robert Taylor at [email protected].

Public affairs reporter Sonja Perman contributed to this story.