The Center for Career Services is working to raise $100,000 from donors this year to give more grants to students who work as unpaid interns.
On the surface, this is a worthy goal and a solid fundraising focus.
But praising GW for working to compensate unpaid interns overlooks a big problem: Many students still have to dole out thousands of dollars to GW to receive credit for their unpaid internships, creating a system where money illogically flows from students back into the University’s pocket.
Many companies require students to receive academic credit for their unpaid work. Often, without this credit, the intern won’t be hired.
But if students go over the University’s credit-hour limit in order to take the internship, or work the internship for credit over the summer, he or she will be charged $1,315.25 per extra credit.
Requiring students to hand money to the University for a service GW isn’t even providing is unjust. Students have remained complacent with that reality for too long.
In most cases, we know why we pay for academic credits in the classroom. Our tuition helps pay professors, bring in new classroom technology and keep the lights on.
But with the exception of a written essay that students have to submit to the University at the end of the internship – which is mostly a formality – the University is typically disconnected from the internship process. If the University isn’t putting much into unpaid internships off campus, why should it get anything out of them?
To remedy this problem, the University should allow students to earn credit for at least one internship per year without having to pay the exorbitant cost. This move ensures fairness but prevent students from freeloading off the system and forgoing classes to take multiple internships.
But, more importantly, it will give students the freedom to take advantage of the important career-building opportunities that internships can offer.
It is disingenuous for GW to tout its valuable location in D.C. – plastering it on advertisements and brochures – while capitalizing on students’ unpaid work.
From their first day at Colonial Inauguration, students are encouraged to take advantage of everything the city has to offer, including professional development in the District. But for students already struggling to pay the hefty tuition costs, these costs can be a major deterrent.
And while the goal to raise $100,000 to pay unpaid interns is laudable, it will only cover costs a fraction for the students gunning for unpaid internships.
When done constructively, internships are the best form of career services: Each year, hundreds of students use the connections they made to secure jobs upon graduation. It is wrong for GW to deny many students these chances at improving their career prospects.