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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, April 20, 2024

Community health majors must pay eight times original price for required summer internship

The course, which originally cost $500 to take over the summer, has an expected work commitment of 150 hours.

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The Collaborative Learning and Innovation Complex, where the Department of Community Health is housed, is pictured.

Community health majors learned earlier this month of Tufts’ decision to raise the summer cost of a required internship course, CH140, from $500 total to $1,035 per credit. This change, meaning an increase of over $3,640 for the 4-credit class, has surprised students who will experience increased financial burden when they work a required internship over the summer.

“For a variety of reasons, tuition for the summer session of CH140 has been artificially low over the years,” Patrick Collins, executive director of media relations, wrote in an email to the Daily. “Recently, in an effort to address equity concerns raised by that disparity, A&S took initial steps to begin bringing the course’s tuition in line with the cost of the school’s other summer courses.”

As stated on the Department of Community Health website, the internship requirement is considered an “integral” part of the community health major and offers students the ability to gain hands-on experience in the field and earn course credit. The class requires students to find, apply to and work at a jobsite in the field of community health around the Greater Boston area and attend class meetings on the Medford/Somerville campus, with an expected time commitment of about 150 hours throughout the semester or summer session. No employer payment is guaranteed.

John Fu, department chair of community health, announced the policy change to students in an email on Feb. 6, briefly noting rationale behind the decision and noting it would take effect this coming summer.

“The Dean’s Office is concerned about equity across all summer courses being offered at the school,” Fu wrote. “Unfortunately, this change will impact some of our students who are planning to do their internships in the summer. Please discuss or revise your internship plan with your academic advisor.”

The increased cost — which community health students would not have been aware of when planning their course progression — has come as a surprise to some students under the original impression that the internship requirement would cost only $500 to take during the summer.

Ella Ciccolo, a junior majoring in community health, was eager to intern at organizations dedicated to sexual and reproductive health, but the department’s policy change has added complication to her plans.

“I decided already last year that I was going to do my internship this summer, when the price was still $500,” Ciccolo said. “Then we were only notified … after I had already committed to an internship under the assumption that it would only be $500.”

Sanya Desai, another community health major, faces a similar situation.

“I didn’t expect declaring my major to be a big financial commitment,” Desai, a sophomore, said. While she originally planned to do her internship the summer of her junior year, the class’ cost increase has forced her to reconsider the schedule of her coursework.

“It definitely is affecting the plan I have for getting my requirements done for the trajectory of my major, especially for study abroad,” Desai said.“It really limits my plan for what classes I'm taking and my control over my own schedule.”

Desai also fears the policy will impose financial restrictions on students no longer able to reasonably afford the summer internship tuition.

“It really limits the options of less wealthy students,” Desai said. “It also forces the students to take on more than they can handle during the school year in order to get the requirements done.”

Both Desai and Ciccolo believe the internship is an important part of their education, but that the cost change has inadvertently trapped them in a difficult situation.

“I would want to dedicate my summer to working in the community and giving back and learning more about the field,” Desai said. “So I think doing the internship during the summer for me would allow me to take full advantage of what the internship has to offer and what the community health department has to offer.”

Ciccolo pointed out the potential trade-off that students will face when prioritizing either professional aspirations or financial feasibility.

“People put a lot of effort into finding internships that would be interesting to them,” Ciccolo said. “The application process is long and complicated and takes a lot of work, so it’s really hard to just decide to walk away from one of these internships. But at the same time, it doesn’t feel feasible to have to pay over $4,000 for an unpaid internship over the summer.”

In his original email, Fu said the Dean of Students Office has notified the Financial Aid Office “to pay more attention to the applications for summer financial aid” from community health students and that the department “is proactively exploring other mechanisms to reduce the financial burden.”

While Collins and community health faculty have expressed a desire to develop a solution for those affected by the cost increase, a specific course of action has yet to be announced.

“We understand those concerns and are sensitive to them,” Collins wrote. “The leadership of A&S and the department are working together to develop a solution to address the issue through a combination of defrayed costs, financial aid, and other steps. That plan is still being developed and will be communicated to the affected students once finalized in the near future.”