New Internship Policy Not a Liberal Arts Ideal
February 13, 2013 Leave a comment
The opinion expressed in this article in no way reflects the views of the Student Government Association.
How many times have you been asked this question?
“What are you going to do with a liberal arts degree? What does that even teach you?”
If you’re like me, then you have heard it for at least the last four years.
More than ever before, the value of a liberal arts education is being deeply scrutinized. Is a B.A. from a small liberal arts college, like Goucher, worth the exorbitant cost? For the minority of students paying full tuition, this could be over $150,000 in four years. I suspect, since we are all here at Goucher, we have decided that, yes, indeed it is. However, even the most staunch defenders of the liberal arts model, like myself, must admit that there is a high value for real world experience, like internships. That, in some ways, internships are the saving grace for liberal arts colleges in a more and more competitive economy.
So, with this in mind, it bewilders me why Goucher is choosing to charge for internship credits now?
At a time when it seems that every entry level job requires some experience and more and more prestigious summer and winter internships are unpaid, it seems like Goucher should be encouraging its students to take more internships, not less. Certainly, if a student is not only expected to pay for living in a city like New York or Washington D.C. in addition to hundreds of dollars in credit fees, fewer students will be able to afford these sorts of opportunities.
While there are some who this policy does not affect, namely those who can afford to pay the new fees, are we to accept that real world credit bearing internship experience is now only for those who can afford it? Surely that is not in keeping with our community principles of respect, inclusion, and service and social justice.
While I’m sure some will say that a student can simply not petition for credit for an internship, this is also problematic. First, aside from the fact that many internships require that you receive college credit, some majors require credit bearing internships, and rightfully so. In one example, how could we justify, as a liberal arts college, having a business major without an internship requirement?
We may soon find out, as I’m sure many of the departments that currently require an internship, are rethinking their requirement. How could they not? The choice is about equity, should their major cost substantially more than others? Can they say, “You may only be a Political Science major if you can afford it?”
Finally, there is one explanation that I find particularly unpalatable. Yes, Goucher is one of the last schools to make this change, most schools charge for internship credit. My response is, since when has Goucher followed the lead of other schools? We were the first to require study abroad of all undergraduate students because we saw the value in experiential learning abroad. If this decision is not about financial security, which according the Sandy’s email, it is not, than why not embrace the fact that we believe so strongly in apprenticeship and real world experience in a liberal arts education that we will continue to offer those credits to our students for free. That we will continue to uphold the liberal arts as a bastion of respect, inclusion, and service and social justice in today’s higher education landscape.