2011-11-07 / Word

Is college worth it?

A growing number are taking a gap year to ensure it is

DURANGO, Colo. — Is college really worth it? A College Board report last month showed college costs up more than 8 percent, significantly outpacing inflation, states a news release. “And adding insult to injury, increasing numbers of recent graduates live at home with their parents for extended time waiting for a response to the latest online resume submission.”

“In the right context, college is absolutely worth it,” said teen expert Andy Braner. “But the real question is about timing. When does it make the most sense for kids to go? And what life experience do they need to make the most of the opportunity to learn?”

Braner should know; he is emerging as the leading voice on the real world faced by young people today, according to the release. Recently, FOX News called on him to address winning the battle against bullying.

His book, “An Expose on Teens, Sex and Dating,” is intended to help parents understand the highly-sexualized world that confronts their teenage kids. Each year Braner speaks to more than 80,000 young people.

And to this year’s crop of high school seniors, Braner offers two words: Gap Year.

“For many, today’s college degree is like yesterday’s high school diploma,” Braner said. “Kids go to college with no idea what they want to do, and they end up spending five years or more on a four-year degree, then find out that piece of paper alone is not going to get them a job. But go into college with a world-opening year of service, and it’s a whole other experience.”

Ivy League gap year advocates

World-class universities such as Harvard, Princeton and Massachusetts Institute of Technology encourage students to take time off between an increasingly high-pressure high school environment and college.

“Perhaps the best way of all to get the full benefit of a ‘time-off ’ is to postpone entrance to college for a year,” Harvard Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William Fitzsimmons said in his article, “Time Out or Burn Out for the Next Generation.”

“For nearly 40 years, Harvard has recommended this option, indeed proposing it in the letter of admission. Normally a total of about 50 to 70 students defer college until the next year,” he wrote. “The results have been uniformly positive.”

Financial benefit

So, for about the cost of one year’s expenses at a public university, high school graduates can circle the globe and enter college ready to bear down and take their degree plan seriously — and finish in four years, states the release.

“Just getting out of college won’t make the difference,” Braner said. “What matters to employers and in life, is what kind of person you are when you get out of college. Taking a year between graduating high school and becoming a freshman in college can change the rest of your life.”


Gap years started in Great Britain in the 1960s with students completing secondary school but electing to defer university enrollment. Slow to catch on in the United States, the concept is gaining steam as the high school educational environment grows more intense and many young people enter college unsure of what major to pursue or what they hope to do on graduation.

According to the release, the number of colleges accepting students and allowing them to defer entry for a year has risen to about 5 percent.

KIVU Gap Year program

Braner founded and directs Camp KIVU in the mountains near Durango, Colo., and KIVU is now in its second year of offering a gap year program.

“A successful gap year consists of far more than an extended vacation or nebulous ‘time off,’” Braner said. “For example, the KIVU Gap Year program places young people in positions of service, internship and business and cultural interaction beginning in the United States and then around the world.”

The program starts with fall in Denver serving through Mile High Ministries, an umbrella organization for a variety of outreach programs to the poor and needy. After Thanksgiving, the group travels to Rwanda to learn how business works in a developing nation. Program participants finish out their year in the Philippines working in poverty alleviation, health, education and sustainable farming, states the release.

“Some programs, KIVU’s among them, offer a chance for college credit earned through the experiences of the gap year,” Braner said. “ But every program worth its salt should add value to the college experience.”

“A productive gap year program should have the feel of a job to it,” Braner said. “ Gap year students enter college a year later than their contemporaries but years ahead in maturity, focus and direction. College becomes a tool to accomplish goals versus a tool to help discover them.”

And as a consequence, students leave the university better equipped to pursue a job they are more certain they want, Braner said.

For more information, visit Andy- Braner.com or CampKIVU.com.

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