Section: Opinion

Internships for credit? Maybe not

Kenyon’s policy on unpaid internships remains confusing

After spending almost two hours searching the Kenyon website trying to find information about Kenyon’s internship and credit policies, I am still confused.

I recently met with a consultant at the Career Development Office (CDO) to go over internship options, search engines and networking, and there was no mention of earning credit. Throughout my search for an internship in the notoriously underpaid/unpaid writing and film industries, some generous companies say they’ll reimburse me for travel and food costs, some offer credit and most offer nothing but the line on my résumé that indicates I slaved over coffee orders and probably broke a copy machine.

After some brief yet extensive research about the history of internships, I found most schools do offer credit, but some elite institutions like Yale, Columbia and Harvard Universities don’t offer credit that counts toward graduation at all, which can be an issue for internships that only offer credit as pay. While the reasoning for not offering credit is still ambiguous, some speculate that it is because the work done during an internship does not have as much worth as a class or independent study.

While this may be true in some cases, it is unfair that institutions prevent students from taking opportunities — internships that require credit — and offer no monetary payment for their work. In this economy, college students will usually end up taking an internship regardless of the pay, as long as it benefits their résumés and connections.

Kenyon offers .19 credits, which is better than what most Ivy League colleges offer, but still not great. The argument that internship experience is potentially not equal to a full class credit is valid, but I think there should be a better way of ascertaining the intensity and academic validity an internship has and awarding credit from there.

As of right now, I don’t even know the process by which a student can obtain credit. There is almost no information available online about this process, and the fact that no one mentioned it to me, even when I went specifically to discuss internship opportunities at the CDO, might suggest that the school doesn’t want to give credit out in general. If the College doesn’t want to award students credit, and the companies themselves don’t want to award students salaries, internships become free labor.

Kenyon fortunately has a stipend fund to help students pay for living expenses during unpaid internships based on financial aid, academic standing and the cover letter and résumé. While this is a great tool to have, it does not award students payment — monetarily or academically — for the work they’ve done.

In a recovering job market where there are still issues finding employment, it’s important to obtain impressive internships. As a college student, I know I’ll work whatever job for whatever payment as long as it looks good, and that is the type of attitude that is preventing this unpaid internship issue from being resolved.

Jacqueleen Eng ’19 is undeclared from Chatham, N.J. Contact her at engj@kenyon.edu.

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