March 29, 2019

A Gap Year Can Help Make College Less Expensive

Center for Interim Programs
(This is our third post in a series on the economics of taking gap time.)

In the last ten years, the gap year concept has received widespread growth and acceptance nationwide. Anecdotal and empirical evidence often states that a well-planned gap year can be just as educational as a year of college, so it is not surprising that we are frequently asked, “Is a gap year really as valuable as we keep reading and hearing about? How does this all happen?”

The Gap Year Association website posts research conducted by Karl Haigler and Rae Nelson from their second book, “Gap Year: American Style”. Many of the gap year students used in their research are actually Center for Interim Programs alumni since we had one of the largest available pool of students - over 8,000 - dating back to 1980. Their research found that 90% of students who take a structured gap year return to college within a year.  98% of these students claim that their gap years helped them develop as a person while 97% claim that it increased their maturity. Additionally, 84% stated that their gap year helped them acquire skills to be successful in future careers and 73% say that their gap year increased their college readiness. 

With all these recognized advantages, colleges (e.g. Colorado College) are finding that gap year students are more likely to complete their studies in four years or less. In comparison, non-gap year students take 5.8 to 6.4 years to complete their degree which means 5.8 to 6.4 years of tuition and fees. Parents budgeting for four years of college tuition may not realize how typical it is for students to take more time than that to complete their degree as they change majors or schools in their efforts to sort out who they are and what work they might want to do in the world. Being a more efficient and focused gap year student minimizes this searching time within the classroom as well as college costs. And most gap years do not involve the expense of a full year of college tuition.

We have witnessed many of our gap year students finish college and continue on the path they discovered and decided upon with the help of their gap year. They often head straight into a career or further education with fewer doubts about their choice and direction. An added benefit is that a gap year resume can help students more easily land internships or jobs given the work skills they have accrued, along with a compelling sense of self and self-confidence that is palpable during interviews. 

If gap year college graduates start their careers immediately, they will begin to earn salaries and likely have the discretionary income they ideally planned for when they chose their major. They can more quickly pay off any college debt they might have incurred. All of these elements offer true economic value and the gap year plays a unique part assisting students position themselves more powerfully for the rest of their working lives.

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