College credit proves costly
Internships are increasingly offered to college students requiring just the costly accompaniment of “college credit,” footed by students. Despite its hefty price tag, college credit is erroneously perceived as employers’ 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 “college credit” as compliance with the law.
Though the six criteria outlined by the Fair Labor Standards Act are intended to emphasize an internship’s advancement of students’ education, the fourth criteria stating that employees must derive no immediate benefits from an unpaid intern’s activity has stirred employers’ fear of breaking the law and fueled the “college credit” safeguard myth.
When an internship is classified as part of a student’s 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 today’s increasingly competitive job market, where a college education is unremarkable, students desperately seek a leg-up in their respective industries — and that means agreeing to unpaid work. Students have internalized the norm of exploitative pre-entry-level positions; if they don’t want to do the work for free, someone else will.
Coupled with America’s desperate economy in which recent grads must validate their worth, an excessively cutthroat attitude has threaded willingness to work without pay among today’s 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 aren’t 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.