The Economic Argument for Taking a Gap Year: Controlling the Educational Debt for Students and Parents 

It is no surprise that the cost of attending college in the US has become an absurdly expensive proposition for students and parents, across the socioeconomic spectrum. This fact alone, is forcing millions of American families to re-evaluate how this investment is made.
The question which is in the back of most parent’s minds as right of passage to college approaches is: ‘Is my student really ready to start college. Does he or she have the confidence, emotional maturity, and clarification of interests, necessary to succeed in college?’ Unfortuneately, statistics from the US Department of Education indicate parents continue to send their sons and daughters lockstep from highschool to college in record numbers, and an alarming percentage of them drop out before sophmore year. (Statistics from the US Department of Education indicate that about 30% of high school seniors entering four year colleges will not return for sophmore year. That is about 1.5 million students) Many other students who stay in college, struggle to complete their chosen major graduating in five or more years instead of four. You may be asking, as I do whenever I read these statistics, ‘why don’t parents give more consideration to whether, or not, there child is ready to succeed in college, and to consider delaying entrance, and considering alternative options?’

Part of the reason is cultural – many parents send their students off to college each fall, because there are great expectations in the US culture that after graduating from highschool, the next step is getting accepted to college, getting a degree, and starting a career. Stepping off the fast track, to pursue alternative options, are confusing and frightening to many parents today. In other words, parents and students are under tremendous societal pressure to ‘keep up up with the Jones’. The result is that many parents are  making investments in higher education for their their kids before they are ready for college, incurring debts that will burden both for years to come.
It is arguable, that their are severe financial consequences for parents and their students, if they go to college, but are not ready, and leave before sophmore year. A year at a state university or college can run $10,000 to $20,000 in tuition and fees alone, not to mention living expenses, which could be an additional $15,000, or more. Private schools, well I will leave the math to you, if you fall in this category. , who may, in hindsight, wished they had planned a productive gap year, instead of spending their freshman year, possibly adrift, without acasdemic or career focus.
An investment made in a well structured gap year, prior to entering college, could have saved thousands of dollars for these students and their families. By spending time gaining maturity and perspective through a combination of challenging experiences outside the traditional classroom, students become far better prepared for the rigors of college, living away from family and friends for the first time, and managing to succeed rather than survive freshman year. 
Read “The Projected Cost of a College Education” under Links to Articles. Also, consider the fact that according to the American College Testing Service (ATS) less than half the students entering traditional four-year colleges today will have graduated after 5 years. Often the extra year is the result of changing majors. Changing majors is frequently the result of not having clearly defined interests and career goals. In today’s dollars an extra two semesters at a public college could cost you $20,000, or even $40,000 for a private college or university. The cost of a well structured gap year is far less money.