After student-led push, GW slashes costs for internship credit

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo by Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor

Student Association President Nick Gumas is expected to announce his plan to lower the fee students pay to receive academic credit for internships Monday.

Interning for credit at GW just got cheaper.

Starting this summer, students whose internships require them to receive academic credit will pay just $50 and earn one credit. That’s a steep drop from the $1,300 students previously had to spend to intern without pay over the summer.

Student Association President Nick Gumas, who had campaigned on reducing fees for students with unpaid internships, said that by paying the small processing fee, students won’t have to worry that their applications will be rejected by a program that requires credit.

He said the fees created a obstacle for students who were already dealing with the burden of an unpaid position.

“A big problem many students have is that they’ll apply for a summer internship, they’ll get the internship, the program says you can’t take this internship unless you take it for credit,” said Gumas, who will formally announced the changes Monday. “This $50 option allows students in those situations to have their internships without incurring that serious financial loss.”

He added that the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences already created a zero-credit option for students, but Gumas said companies increasingly reject potential interns who can’t earn course hours.

The changes were approved through a joint effort between the SA and Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and Planning Forrest Maltzman, Gumas said. The credit students earn through the course will not count toward graduation.

He said students who take 17 credits will also be able to take a one-credit internship without paying the fee for an 18th credit, which would place them over the full-time student limit.

Avra Bossov, the SA’s executive vice president, said she was working on a task force to develop the program with representatives from the Center for Career Services, which will host the course. She is also working with students, faculty, staff and alumni.

Bossov said it was important for GW to offer the option to students because of the large number who participate in internships. More than 90 percent of GW students complete at least an internship or other outside learning experience during their time at GW, according to the University’s website.

“Because we place such a high importance on internships in general, to have an infrastructure set up to help students have accessibility to internships, we’ve gotten a lot of widespread support,” she said.

The Princeton Review named GW the best university in the country for internship opportunities, according to rankings released last week. The University does not track how many students who pay to take internships for academic credit only.

The Career Center created the Knowledge in Action Career Internship Fund in 2013 to help students cover the costs of taking unpaid internships, typically with non-profits or government agencies. Students can be awarded between $1,000 and $3,000 through the program.

Two years ago, the Center was aiming to raise $100,000 for the program, which could have given grants to 100 students.

Cutting fees for internships was one of Gumas’ three campaign goals last year. His peer counseling hotline was approved by the University last month and updates to the SA website are expected to be completed over the next couple of months.

Allison Cheston, a consultant who helps recent graduates find jobs, said most top universities don’t accept academic credit for internships, but will provide grants to students that will help cover the costs of taking on an unpaid internship.

“What’s so upsetting is that many of the students who will not be able to get academic credit can’t afford to take an unpaid internship,” she said. “It’s all for the benefit of a company.”

She said most students need to participate in internships or gain some kind of experience before graduation if they hope to be able to find a job.

Chris MacGill, the senior associate director for recruiting and outreach programming at Pennsylvania State University’s Career Services, said students recognize the need to market themselves to employers for post-graduation life.

“They know they need to do it. They’re always looking for opportunities,” she said. “It’s a part of the fabric of the college experience.”

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