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Colleges offer to pay students to take year off



By PAIGE SUTHERLAND

MEDFORD, Mass. (AP) - Colleges are paying students to take a year off after high school to travel, volunteer or do internships so that students of all income brackets can benefit from "gap years."

A new program at Tufts University and existing ones at a handful of other schools aim to remove the financial barriers that can keep cash-strapped students from exploring different communities and challenge their comfort zones before jumping right into college.

The gap year program starting this fall at Tufts will pay for housing, airfare and even visa fees, which can often add up to $30,000 or more.

Although gap years are more popular in Europe, they have started to gain traction in the United States. About 40,000 Americans participated in gap year programs in 2013, an increase of nearly 20 percent since 2006, according to data gathered by a nonprofit called the American Gap Year Association.

In 2009, Princeton University began offering applicants gap-year aid based on need. Nearly 100 students have participated, volunteering in Brazil, China, India, Peru and Senegal.

The University of North Carolina offers $7,500 to gap year applicants, while students at Wisconsin's St. Norbert College can receive financial aid based on need, although airfare isn't covered.

Lydia Collins, a 19-year-old Tufts freshman from Evanston, Ill., said she took a gap year because she wanted to see what was outside of the classroom before committing to four more years of school.

"A lot of kids are very burnt out after high school," Collins said. "Taking this time to be with yourself and see yourself in a new community and light will only help you to succeed in college."

Collins worked in microfinance in Ecuador through the poverty-fighting group Global Citizen and said the experience inspired her to pursue international relations, something she would not have known about beforehand.

Students who take part are able to see the world beyond the bubble they grew up in and return to school with a better perspective of their future, said Holly Bull, president of the Center of Interim Programs, which counsels students on taking gap years. Bull said the benefit of the structured time away from school is too valuable to exclude lower-income students.

"Students return to the classroom more focused, independent and confident," said Bull, who took a gap year herself to Hawaii and Greece. She said the students also tend to have less trouble adjusting to dorm life.

Jeremy Rotblat, a 19-year-old Princeton freshman from Cherry Hill, N.J., said his experience volunteering at a hospital in Senegal better prepared him for college.

"This experience taught me that everything I learn in the classroom will be able to help me when I leave Princeton," Rotblat said. "It is easy at times to question the purpose behind all the school work. But seeing the value firsthand encourages me to push myself academically."

Students selected for Tufts' 1+4 program will be able to defer their admission for a year while still remaining tied to the university through video chat and email. Tufts is planning to work with organizations including Global Citizen, City Year and Lift - which offer volunteering positions in areas such as education, economics, health and the environment - to create packages that fit students' financial needs, including travel and living costs.

Patrick Callan, founding president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, applauds the gap year experience but said structure is key.

"Sometimes, for less motivated students, taking a year off could lead to them never coming back," he said, adding that students that go in without concrete goals can be sidetracked from their studies. "You need to come in having a plan."

For Collins, working in a foreign country away from her family and friends was a reality check.

"After that experience," she said, "I can definitely take on college. It's nothing now."

Join the discussion

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gkeo1 March 15 2014 at 9:31 PM

I think this is very misguided
No one is entitled to a handout
If you need more time to "find yourself" work with any of the agencies-volunteer-apprenticeship etc but do not start your working life with a handout to explore your possibilities.
Use your high school years to decide on your direction-go for it-succeed or fail-try again

Flag Reply +8 rate up
1 reply
wlh1923 gkeo1 March 15 2014 at 10:19 PM

I think you are very naive, ill informed and just
plain out of it. Virtually nobody in hish school
knows what they really want to do when they
grow up. Worse yet, people like you manage to
find fault with any idea, proposal or program
or initiative no matter how innovative, well
intended or successful. People like you are
what is holding this country back.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
polardreamer2003 March 15 2014 at 3:08 PM

It seems like the College could select to use the funds to
give grants to kids who have worked hard in school yet are too poor for College
This makes a lot more sense to me

Flag Reply +6 rate up
punnster March 16 2014 at 12:58 AM

I have a better idea. Most kids when they graduate from high school now days are immature have no self-discipline and have no clue. They should enlist in the military. Then they would learn the satisfaction of serving their country. They would learn to cooperate and have an organized life. They could even have an opportunity to learn skills that would apply to almost any occupation. Not only that, when they got out, their G.I. bill would have safe for their college education. Check each batch of military and which will offer you your best opportunities in schools and training Commensurate with your limited goals.

Flag Reply +7 rate up
1 reply
kjbrenda punnster March 16 2014 at 2:11 AM

What makes you think the military wants or deserves to enlist people with no self discipline. Today's military is not your grandpa's military where they took anyone and even forced people to join. Today's military requires self disciplined men and women that are highly motivated with the ability to handle higher levels of responsibility than their age related civilian counter parts. The days of society dumping their misfits onto the military were over many decades ago. Today's hi tech, force leveraged military doesn't need or take misfits any more. Misfits would quickly fall peril to life damaging affects of the UCMJ. It's foolish advice encouraging misfits to join an organization that consists of our country's finest citizens. Military commanders and supervisors have their hands full and don't need you trying to create a new social program to help misfit kids grow up. When we break, the machine breaks. Misfits are broken people and we don't need a broken military. Try talking the misfits into going to college where they can learn some disciple without any risk to our national defense or to their fellow soldiers, sailors, pr airmen. Shame on you for even thinking of dumping societies garbage into our awesome military. You create a business and you hire the misfits and tell us how that works out.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
2 replies
TR by ML Neal... kjbrenda March 16 2014 at 4:16 AM

kjbreanda....have you been in the military. Sorry to say they do take misfits. Kids who have no place to go, living in old abandon buses, kicked out of their parents home because they had an 18th birthday. All it takes is a high school diploma and the military will "whip" you into shape. And misfits are taken. Some are so fragile they get their shoelaces taken away until they graduate from boot camp. Don't know what military you're talking about, but yeah they take "broken" kids and financially broke kids. Just don't have any felony convictions that are active and a high school diploma. Uncle Sam wants YOU!

Flag +1 rate up
Sherry Lee kjbrenda March 16 2014 at 5:09 AM

The draft worked out just fine and the WW 2 veterans ar e still the greatest generation. Young people are just joining the military for huge paybacks. Some joining the military are not high achievers and go enlist for the money and huge benefit package. I do not know the last time you set foot in a VA and saw some of the veterans who are returning with bad attitudes and lack of respect for the older veterans.

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omninsurance March 16 2014 at 12:35 AM

How about giving the $30,000 to each returning Vet ? At least they've earned it! Semper Fi

Flag Reply +10 rate up
Abul March 15 2014 at 3:21 PM

A vast majority of these colleges are money making machines. In a vast majority of the countries in Asia, higher education is subsidized by the State and that is why they are now having more doctors, engineers, scientists and day by day they are going forward as we are going backward.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
DONNIE BOY March 16 2014 at 12:31 AM

RIDICULOUS! This illustrates the acumen of these wild eyed liberal college administrators running our colleges today. If they can afford to do this, they ought to try reducing tuition rates.That
just might make make college more affordable for all.

Flag Reply +9 rate up
Debbie March 15 2014 at 3:31 PM

I am blessed....my daughter went and waited for college until she had a family....I couldn't afford to help her when she was young...she had a full time work, a child to take care of and a husband....and she went to night school....she got her registered nurses degree with honors...I'm proud of her and no one gave her a free hand out...

Flag Reply +1 rate up
1 reply
idahoblue777 Debbie March 15 2014 at 6:50 PM

So she mooched off of her husband. You think she had no handout?

Flag Reply 0 rate up
1 reply
lconroy826 idahoblue777 March 16 2014 at 4:31 AM

I am sorry. I am so sorry you have had such a rough time in life. Please call someone to help you not be so nasty.... There are meds for that.

Flag 0 rate up
scottee March 15 2014 at 3:31 PM

so basically if you declare your kid a non dependent, every student is cash strapped.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
bradbarb69 March 15 2014 at 11:35 PM

Should be 2 years between HS and college mandatory military duty.You don't have to do combat,but at least you would learn some respect.Could solve alot of problems

Flag Reply +19 rate up
drober6592 March 15 2014 at 11:21 PM

I wonder what statistics of performance are. Is it worth the money or are they serving their class? Does sending a teenager to a foreign country sound like a good idea anytime?

Flag Reply +3 rate up
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