CHANDLER, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - It’s already been a tough time for high school seniors with the rest of their school year canceled. But now many of them are making the tough decision to take a gap year before college due to the coronavirus pandemic. The reasons include finances and fear, and economists expect it to hit the Arizona universities hard.

gap year impact

Universities may see their revenue drop because more incoming college students are taking a year off.

May 1 is the day most incoming freshmen have to officially decide where they’re going to college, submit their acceptance, and likely make a deposit. But now many won’t be doing that. Eighteen-year-old Rhys Whiteside and his mom agree on one big thing.

“He really isn’t interested in going to sit in a dorm to do online learning,” Holly Whiteside said.

Rhys lives in Chandler and is a senior at Perry High School. He was getting ready for the fall semester at ASU, majoring in electrical engineering. But with so much unknown, Rhys’ family has decided he’ll take a gap year, and many other families are expressing similar thoughts.

“A lot of people have reached out to me and said they’re considering doing the same thing for their kids,” said Holly.

A survey by the educational consulting group Art & Science found a significant chunk of incoming freshmen are considering deferring a year, and 17% said they doubt they’ll be full-time college students in the fall.

Economically, this isn’t great for State 48.

“Arizona is a destination state for students from out of state and across the globe,” said Arizona Chamber of Commerce spokesman Garrick Taylor. “International students account for hundreds of millions of dollars in tuition payments so that’s really going to hit the bottom line not only for ASU but our other Board of Regents schools.”

Taylor said this could impact academic years to come too, and will likely be a challenge for lawmakers who appropriate the funds to run these schools. But for Rhys’ family, things are too different to justify paying thousands of dollars.

“We personally believe that your college experience is half social and half academic. And not having the opportunity to socialize with kids, not going to football games and doing the tailgating and all that stuff, I think he would just rather wait,” said Holly.

ASU said they’ve launched their summer classes online at a reduced rate, but said they’re still working through planning scenarios for the fall as to whether classes will resume in-person or be held online only.

 

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