Journeys Beginning and Ending

August 24, 2018

Oran P. Smith, Ph.D

Senior Fellow

We sent two off to college this week. One transferring as a junior into the orange world, the other starting out as a freshman under the garnet flag. Because I attended both universities, I have to admit it gives me great joy to know that at some time this week, one will walk through the doors of Sirrine, the other Gambrell. So many happy and challenging hours spent at Clemson and USC—on Bowman Field, along the Horseshoe, and even in two libraries named Cooper (Robert and Thomas).

As you can already tell, there are lots of emotional implications to their matriculation. So, in a desperate search for a stiff upper lip…join me in retreating to an analysis of the policy implications.

Changing the names to protect the innocent, let’s start with Child #1. Child #1 was the poster child for school choices. In her thirteen years of schooling, she attended an independent Christian school, was educated at home, attended a Resource Center, took classes online, and attended a public school through open enrollment in a neighboring attendance area. Had she attended a Charter and a Magnet school, she would have literally done it all! When it came time for college, she cast a wide net for visits—the Northeast, the Midwest, and South Carolina. Ultimately, she chose an in-state college because of cost and its high ranking in her discipline of choice. Child #2 had a more typical K-12 experience but is enjoying a more unique college one. He had no interest in leaving South Carolina for college and didn’t start at his dream school, working his way there over time.

We aren’t wealthy by any means, so in our minds, a number of K-12 education choices were off the table. Boarding school or the more elite private schools were not an option (though I understand there are very generous scholarships for each). But, we were somehow able to swing the cost of other opportunities as they came along—online fees, transportation to an out of attendance area school, private school tuition, Resource Center teacher honoraria, out of pocket homeschool curriculum expenses, and the cost of having one parent out of the workforce.

Every family can’t take advantage of every opportunity. But that should be the goal of our society (within reason). Every family should have the freedom to explore all the options we had and more. Reforms you have read about here, many of them part of our PPI Freedom Agenda, explain how we can expand opportunity as a state.

I hope this story of our personal journey as a family explains some of the passion I bring to this work. Just as I celebrate my children choosing their own experiences, I hope one day we can all celebrate every student in South Carolina seeing all doors to education opportunity wide open to them.