Letter to the editor
Posted November 7, 2011 at 9:22 pm in Opinion
College credit proves costly
Internships are increasingly offered to college students requiring just the costly accompaniment of âcollege credit,â footed by students. Despite its hefty price tag, college credit is erroneously perceived as employersâ safety blanket in a society of legalities.
Though the Fair Labor Standards Act outlines six standards precluding an unpaid student from classification as a mistreated employee, employers frequently misinterpret the vague criteria, wrongly translating âcollege creditâ as compliance with the law.
Though the six criteria outlined by the Fair Labor Standards Act are intended to emphasize an internshipâs advancement of studentsâ education, the fourth criteria stating that employees must derive no immediate benefits from an unpaid internâs activity has stirred employersâ fear of breaking the law and fueled the âcollege creditâ safeguard myth.
When an internship is classified as part of a studentâs education under the guise of college credit, employers perceive all activities performed by the student as components of a curriculum and protected from disputes of legality.
With the college credit internship, despite the steep cost of the often unnecessary credit, students are speculated to be the primary benefactors in the employer/unpaid intern relationship.
In todayâs increasingly competitive job market, where a college education is unremarkable, students desperately seek a leg-up in their respective industries â and that means agreeing to unpaid work. Students have internalized the norm of exploitative pre-entry-level positions; if they donât want to do the work for free, someone else will.
Coupled with Americaâs desperate economy in which recent grads must validate their worth, an excessively cutthroat attitude has threaded willingness to work without pay among todayâs youth.
While unpaid internships are commonplace, employers must understand the legality of hiring unpaid interns in order to minimize the cost to students. Employers must understand that college-credit-only internships are costly to students and arenât the defining merit of legal compliance.
Policymakers that created the Fair Labor Standards Act with the intention of protecting students need to reassess the consequences of its poorly worded policy.
It must clarify the criteria for unpaid interns to employers to abolish the myth of college credit and save students unwarranted expenses.