Higher Education Organizations Go to Bat for Unpaid Internships

Several higher education organizations are lobbying for colleges and universities to be the arbiter of what makes for a valid unpaid internship experience. In other words, they are advocating a return to the status quo that led to the problem in the first place.
The more troubling aspect of the story it is a part of the continuing corruption of “experiential learning” by making it synonymous with “outside the classroom” and meaning by that work in off-campus organizations (whether they be for- or non-profit).  This discredits the value of the classroom and it undermines the transformation of what we do in the classroom by including more experiential work there.
The most prominent of them is the American Council on Education (ACE). Conspicuous by their absence from this list: AAC&U and CIC.  Several top universities have stopped offering academic credit for unpaid internships.
Ostensibly the six organizations have proposed something similar to the government standards: unpaid internships are OK if it benefits the intern rather than the company/organization. They pitch it as “let us regulate ourselves with finesse rather than be subject to clumsy government standards,” arguing that a well run internship program won’t have problems…. Absent is recognition that well-run internship programs are rare. And there is an obvious explanation: it takes a lot of work and who is going to pay for it?
And no one even mentions institutions collecting tuition for credits earned in unpaid work for external organizations.

Author: Dan Ryan

I'm currently an Academic Program Director at MinervaProject.com. I've been a professor at University of Toronto, University of Southern California, and Mills College teaching things like human centered design, computational thinking, modeling for policy sciences, and social theory. I'm driven by the desire to figure out how to teach twice as many twice as well twice as easily.

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