UMaine denies housing so prodigy, 14, picks UNH

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PORTLAND (AP) – A 14-year-old prodigy who is graduating from high school this spring has decided to attend the University of New Hampshire after university officials in Maine denied her request to live in a college dormitory.

Lauren Lazarus of Hiram is valedictorian of her Sacopee Valley High School senior class. She’s been admitted to New Hampshire, Colby College and the University of Maine.

Colby and New Hampshire were willing to allow Lauren live in campus housing, but Maine decided it was inappropriate for a girl her age to live in a college dorm.

Although Lauren has now decided to attend UNH, the decision by Maine has upset her family. Her mother, Joanne deKay, said the university is discriminating against her daughter based on age and made its decision without knowing much about her daughter.

“Essentially, by denying my daughter housing on campus, they are denying her the full tuition scholarship that she earned and deserves,” deKay told the Portland Press Herald in an e-mail. “She cannot be a commuter student from home, she cannot live on campus, she cannot take an apartment off campus.”

Robert Dana, dean of students at the University of Maine, said housing decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, but that he believes residence halls don’t have enough supervision for a 14-year-old.

He said he would hesitate even considering a dorm room for a student 16 or younger, in part because dorm staff members are trained to help older teenagers.

Lazarus said she had narrowed her choices to UMaine and UNH, and was leaning toward UNH, when the decision was taken out of her hands.

Lazarus was home-schooled as a youngster, and she skipped fourth, seventh and eighth grades. In her senior year, she’s taking advanced placement courses in Latin and English, plus calculus, physics, anatomy, history and two other courses. She also finds time for singing and drama.

She feels she’s ready for college after four years of high school and numerous trips away from her parents.

“In some ways it’s just a little scary because it’s different from what I’m used to,” Lazarus said. “But if we don’t do things like that, then what are we going to do, really?”

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