Editorial | More financial support for unpaid internships
Published: Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, September 11, 2013 08:09
Getting an internship can be one of the most exciting and relieving parts of a Tufts student’s academic career. Not only do internships carry a certain prestige, but they also offer students hands-on experience in a field that interests them and, occasionally, the possibility of future employment. Doing internships — paid or unpaid — has become the norm for most college students, and for some, it is actually a requirement or an expectation for fulfilling a major.
For instance, child development majors are encouraged to pursue relevant internships during their undergraduate careers, while majors in peace and justice studies are required to intern with a social change organization in order to receive their degrees. Although this is conceivably a reasonable and worthwhile requirement for students, there is one glaring problem with the current system. Students who wish or need to receive academic credit for their internships must enroll in an internship course.
During the semester, this simply means adding another course to your schedule. If a student is looking to receive academic credit for a summer internship, though, this requires enrolling in the Tufts Summer Session. Taking a half credit during the summer term sets a student back $1,083, excluding the additional $50 registration fee. Students taking a full credit have to pay over $2,000.
In essence, students are paying the university to acknowledge their (often unpaid) internships. Although the Career Center does offer 40 internship grants annually to qualified students, this is only a fraction of the number of students who pursue internships every year, and not every type of internship is eligible for a grant. (Grants are available in four areas: non-profit or public sector internships, diversity fund internship grants for students on financial aid, entrepreneurial leadership internships and science/technology internships.) Not to mention that the deadline for applying for these grants is in March — at which point many students do not yet know which organization they’ll be working for over the summer.
Students who already pay one of the most expensive college tuitions in Massachusetts should not be expected to pay additional costs in order to have their efforts at an outside employer recognized for credit by Tufts. It becomes even more ludicrous when considering that Tufts requires some of these students to pursue internships and then offers them limited financial support.
If departments are going to require or highly encourage student participation in internships for academic credit, the university should actively facilitate this involvement. Subsidizing the cost of Summer Session enrollment for students who are required to complete internship s would be a good first step. Additionally, awarding more grants whose deadlines fall closer to the beginning of summer should be a priority in the future.