UT should rethink its internship-for-credit system

Across UT, colleges have attempted to push students to acquire real-world experience in their areas of study by offering internship credit courses which allow students to receive credit toward their degrees. In theory, these courses allow students a two-for-one deal on their time spent interning, but for many students, the push to find an internship has become just another burdensome requirement for graduation. Furthermore, offering course credit for internships disincentivizes some employers from paying student interns wages, a problem that, though beyond the University’s domain, is exacerbated by UT policy. 

Given these and other potential problems with offering course credit for internships, it may be time for programs at UT to rethink the way they incorporate work experience into their curricula. 

An internship requirement equal to that of course credit creates a series of problems: In some colleges at UT, there is limited guidance or help for students to find legitimate internships that satisfy the credit requirements and that provide students with rewarding experiences. And in certain programs, the requirement to complete an internship forces students to pay tuition to receive course credit for work when they should be the ones getting paid.   

In the upcoming summer and fall semesters, the University will offer 96 and 104 internship “courses” respectively, strictly for students seeking to claim internship credit. 

Academic success is only part of what makes students successful after leaving campus, and internships and work experience are crucial indicators of what to expect in a given field and in the workforce as a whole. Internships in particular are beneficial to students planning to enter the many fields that require previous experience as a requisite for entry-level jobs. 

Clearly the effort to have students leave UT with a minimum level of work experience is reasonable and responsible for a campus that intends to have a meaningful impact on the world; however, the requirement to complete an internship does not always work as an incentive in the way it was likely imagined. Motivated students will complete a number of internships without the University’s intervention, and the paltry one-internship requirement of some programs is not aiding students’ experiences, especially when it attempts to shoehorn a work experience into the format of a traditional class through written assignments graded by administrators who are removed from the students’ actual situation at the job site. 

Internships are not, after all, the equivalent of class lectures or labs — they require little to no faculty involvement, which could justify the University’s charging for them. Considering all the work and effort needed just to gain internship credit, it is unfair for students to pay for an internship as if it were another course on campus — especially if a summer internship means paying summer tuition for that credit alone. The University has made great strides in recent years in making a UT education more diverse and customizable. Many colleges across campus provide more-than-adequate services to students seeking on-the-job experience while earning their degrees. Still, the University could do more to make sure that all programs provide students easy access to course credit for internships that are both accessible and rewarding.