Study: ‘Gap year’ leads to degree gap

Students who take a “gap year” between high school and college are less likely to complete a degree, concludes a CUNY study, What is Academic Momentum? And Does It Matter?  The degree attainment gap is eight points for two-year college enrollees, nine points for four-year college entrants. Low-income and poorly prepared students were affected the most by delaying college and enrolling part-time.

Enrolling part-time and taking fewer credits is especially harmful for community college students, the study found. On the other hand, “overloaded” students taking more than 18 hours at a time were not more likely to complete a degree.

“High-momentum” behaviors, such as earning credits in the first semester and taking classes in the summer, were linked strongly to degree completion.

When financial aid doesn’t cover summer courses –year-round Pell Grants have been dropped to save money — disadvantaged students may lose academic momentum, the study suggested.  However, “performance-based financial aid could reinforce academic momentum by rewarding students who are on a trajectory to graduate.”