Ryan Carey-Mahoney: Push zero-credit internships

Raekwon and Method Man of the Wu-Tang Clan were right – cash rules everything around me.

Yet for many students who struggle to find summer jobs, an unpaid internship must suffice. And due to labor laws, many organizations force students to earn course credit for free work.

It costs $1,000 at GW for each credit for an internship. That’s right: $1,000 just to work for free. I gave up hope of accepting unpaid internships I applied for after learning about the fee. But then I did some digging – well, a lot of digging – and found a way out.

The Columbian College of Arts and Sciences offers a zero-credit option for a mild $35 fee. If you have not heard of this policy, you are not alone. The zero-credit option allows students to work with permission from the University without receiving credit. But many students do not know about the zero-credit option, and that is a shame.

GW should promote and better advertise these policies to students. I have to applaud the effort to make internships more accessible to those who cannot afford $1,000 per credit, but the fact that I felt like I had to journey to find out this information means others might have as well. Students should not have to worry about turning down opportunities due to affordability.

I was passed around from the Career Center to advising offices within the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Media and Public Affairs. Finally, I was rerouted to CCAS advising, where I learned about the zero credit policy.

The zero-credit policy is designed to help students. Advertising it more so students can actually use it is the next step. No matter how beneficial or innovative a policy, it can only be effective if students know about it.

This lack of communication between Career Services, CCAS and the student body could be remedied by establishing a more open dialogue between the different groups. Whether the answer is a University-wide email that spreads news about important policies or a pamphlet within each school explaining internship options, there needs to be a better way for students to become educated on the University’s internship policies. As unintentional as it may be, the disconnect creates a barrier between the university and the student body.

Having to pay the University for credit for an unpaid internship is something that not all students can afford. Living in D.C. for the summer is already very expensive and students must figure out other costly factors, including living arrangements.

Cash rules everything and unpaid internships are not going away any time soon. The University has to do a better job of advertising policies like the zero credit option so students can look out for their futures.

Ryan Carey-Mahoney, a sophomore majoring in journalism, is a Hatchet columnist.

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