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Gap Year for National Service as a College Graduation Requirement?

January 13, 2020
by Susan Dutca-Lovell
Gap Year for National Service as a College Graduation Requirement?

Should students be required to and serve their nation either before or during college? Pete Buttigieg thinks so, as he has rolled out a $20-billion proposal to enlist young people in national service after high school in order to produce "civically informed and dedicated Americans." In his commentary, Why Colleges Should Require a Gap Year, Jonathan Zimmeran outlines why a gap-year would be the ideal timeline for this initiative.

By enforcing a compulsory-service year, "we're creating better citizens, and a better country," allowing them to be exposed to diversity and complexity of America; enabling them to meet thousands of people who are not like them, and subsequently "bursting their college bubbles, where they are too often surrounded by the like-minded," according to Jonathan Zimmerman. During this gap year, students would have opportunities such as cleaning up parks and rivers, visiting senior citizens, assisting disabled individuals, serving food to the homeless and volunteering at prisons. Under this program, no students could graduate college without serving their country.

Rather than funneling money into expensive study abroad/volunteer programs, colleges could team up with domestic agencies such as AmeriCorps or the Student Conservation Association, which offer gap-year projects in habitat restoration and like environmental endeavors. At schools such as the New School in New York, students can earn up to a full year of academic credit for their service. Buttigieg's proposed national service program would "erase the elitist shine of gap years" and instead, require colleges to incorporate young Americans wherever work is needed, according to Zimmerman.

On the other hand, would national service in the form of a graduation requirement become less meaningful than voluntary service? Would the graduation requirement for gap-year service make college longer and more expensive if it does not take the place of current course requirements? Would the "plus factor" of if doing national service supersede the value of athletic abilities when it comes to college admissions? All of these are valuable questions posed by Jim Jump, who believes the concept is an "interesting idea" with potential "unanticipated consequences." In your opinion, should students be required to take a gap-year and fulfill national service requirements?

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