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Kendrick Baker: Students shouldn’t pay for internship credit that exceeds the 17 credit limit

At GW, if you aren’t adding a new line to your resume, you’re not taking advantage of your time in D.C. We all know the University is heavily reliant on stories of its students’ success – both during their time on campus and after graduation. To ensure that students are successful, GW has cultivated an internship culture.

GW was recently named the No. 1 school for internships for the second year in a row. Since we’re all familiar with the University’s almost comical overuse of the “#OnlyatGW” slogan, this should come as no surprise.

Internships are an enticing aspect of GW’s culture for many applicants, and the school’s unique location should be celebrated and publicized. Yet for all the hype, the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences’ system for allowing students to get academic credit for an internship isn’t all that great. Currently, students have to pay to receive academic credit for an internship if it exceeds the University’s 17-credit limit. GW should reaffirm its commitment to providing students with real-world experience by eliminating those extra charges.

Despite internships by definition taking place off campus, the University bills students for internship hours at the same rate during the school year as they would for conventional classes. For students that have internships on top of a regular class schedule, paying for extra credit hours so that they can receive credit becomes a financial burden.

As a political science major, I realize the incredible opportunities available just blocks from campus – so I decided to add an internship to my schedule for the spring semester. Although difficult, as a double major, having a full schedule with an internship is necessary for my on-time graduation.

To facilitate these opportunities, CCAS allows students to receive academic credit for their internships. Internships can count as one, two or three credit hours and are applied as general credit. For major-specific credit, students must go to their respective departments and apply for credit through their department offices.

As a student with 16 credit hours in academic classes this semester, I am limited to 17 credits per semester. I would need to purchase two additional credit hours from the University at the rate of $1,400 per credit in order to complete an internship for the equivalent of an additional three-credit class. Even though my internship doesn’t place significant strain on the University’s resources, I’m still charged for it.

In the case of the political science department, I know from personal experience that receiving credit that counts toward your major requirements is relatively easy. A few weeks ago, after a brief meeting with my adviser, the political science department made sure I received the one credit space in my schedule for my internship (although based on the number of hours I’m working, I could earn up to three).

Of course, I’m not advocating that GW eliminate all extra credit-hour fees. But internships don’t take class space, and yet are still billed at the same rate as normal classes if the student is taking more than 17 credit hours.

During the summer, there’s a similar problem. Many unpaid internships require that the student receive school credit to avoid allegations of wage theft. Last summer, the political science department decided to allow students to apply their summer internship credits as part of their credit hours for the succeeding fall term.

This policy allows students to avoid expensive summer term charges, and instead take a lighter class load during the fall. But this still forces students to take fewer classes in the fall – which isn’t ideal for everyone.

Last year, school officials, in conjunction with former Student Association President Nick Gumas, decreased the fee for earning one extra credit over the 17-credit-hour limit. However, this change still only applies to students with 17 credit hours, and limits them to earning only one credit hour without the $1,400 per credit fee.

As internships occur off campus and do not tie up school resources, internship credit should be applied in a similar manner as transfer credit. GW should still allow students to count internships toward school credit if they were under the credit limit, but rather than penalizing students for having busy schedules, GW should allow them to “transfer” in their additional internship credits.

For students who are double-majoring, graduating early or entering GW without any AP credit, maintaining a full schedule every semester is a necessity in order to graduate on time. Students should not have to decide between paying thousands of dollars for internship credit and graduating on time.

Eliminating the extra cost of taking on an internship on top of a full course load would ensure that all GW students receive the credit they deserve for the work they do outside of the classroom. And the University could strengthen its position as one of the best schools for internships in the country.

Kendrick Baker, a sophomore double-majoring in political science and economics, is a Hatchet opinions writer. Want to respond to this piece? Submit a letter to the editor.

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