Gunn Hall, located on the southeastern side of campus, has been home to the students of the Advanced Academy of Georgia since the program opened in 1996. The Advanced Academy is a residential dual enrollment program that allows high school students to begin their college career two years early. But after 20 years in fall 2016, Gunn Hall will shut its doors to all Academy students, leaving them to complete their education in their own homes.
Over the past few months, faculty and staff of the Advanced Academy have been meeting to discuss the future of the Academy and certain changes that have to be made to the program. One of these major changes is the removal of the residential portion of the Academy. Students of the Academy will no longer be able to live on-campus, and must instead commute to their classes. There are off-campus apartments offered to students, but the typical age requirement is 18 years old, and the Academy caters to students under the age of 18. Although any student may apply to the Advanced Academy, it is a bit unreasonable to expect a young student to travel over 45 miles each day for class. The updated “Move On When Ready” program allegedly related to this decision. This program gives tuition-free education to dual-enrollment students. Although the residency will no longer be a part of the Advanced Academy, management expresses that the Academy will still be the same program.
Advanced Academy students were outraged when they heard the news. Many staged protests against upper administration to display their disdain towards the decision. The protests took many forms, including multiple e-mails, phone calls, a display of sidewalk chalk and even an online petition. One of the main reasons these students are upset is because they believe that the residential portion of the program is intrinsic to the Academy, and the Academy cannot stand alone without it.
“I feel that taking away the residential portion of the Academy takes away the program that I know and love,” said Rachel Barda, current student in the Advanced Academy. “Taking away the residential portion of the Academy would change the program because it leaves students at home, under their parents’ watchful eye. Without residency, the program is not like college anymore; it is just high school with college classes.
The administration of the Academy claims that the program will remain the same because certain activities the Academy offers will stay the same. These activities include Thursday Night Dinners, where students come together for a meal and listen to a speaker; a Formal, because most students miss their high school prom; the Decathlon, a three- day event with academic and physical competitions between current students and Academy Alumni; and various other clubs and associations.
“I never really got that much from the programming,” Barda stated. “There were Thursday Night Dinners, which were always interesting, but that was not the reason I came to the Academy. They were a supplement to the Academy experience. And the Academy experience is being away from home. The Academy experience is about gaining freedom and perspective by living on a college campus, not just taking college classes.”
Although the program is changing for future classes, it has had a great impact on all who were able to participate in the residential program. The students are disappointed in the change, but grateful for the opportunities they received while in the program.
“Looking back at my high school experience, deciding to take college classes while living on campus as a part of the Advanced Academy of Georgia is probably one of the best decisions of my life,” she said.
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