Students gain experience at cost through internships

Lyndsey Schley

Internships provide students with the opportunity to gets hands on experience in their chosen field. But although many programs at Kent State require internships, the credit hours attached to the work experience can lead to extra costs for college students.

Recently, The School of Journalism and Mass Communication raised internship requirements from one credit hour to two, doubling costs for students, and many other programs have significant costs associated with internships.

The Masters in Public Health requires a six-credit hour internship, which costs an in-state student $2,850 and an out-of-state student $4,902. A graduate student in the College of Public Health who wishes to remain unnamed said he has run into many unexpected expenses with his education, including the credits for the internship.

“I wasn’t well informed about how it’s billed,” he said. “I would like to be assured that it’s not in excess of what people are paying for comparable programs. I think if there is an administrative reason that the department will be charging in excess of what is charged of other programs, we should be informed before the cost is incurred.”

Assistant Professor of Health Policy and Management Willie Oglesby said they refer to their program as a practicum, which is more advanced and more structured than an internship.

“An internship is generally more of a passive experience where they’re watching someone else do the work,” Oglesby said. “In a practicum, students are more involved in a leadership position. Students that are doing their practicums generally are in charge of a project. They do it under the supervision under faculty and a qualified preceptor out in the community.”

The 300 hour practicum follows accreditation standards and is in line with the university’s formula for internships, Oglesby said.

“At Kent State, there’s a formula for contact hours and credit hours,” Oglesby said. “When you translate that using the formula we have here at Kent, 300 contact hours equals six credit hours.”

Many programs suggest their students take internships during the summer. While this may be more convenient, the university charges per credit hour during the summer and any financial aid used during the summer may be taken away from other awards, according to the Kent State Financial Aid website.

More students are opting to take internships during the spring, winter or fall in lieu of traditional summer internships, said Aimee Crane, internship coordinator for Visual Communication and Design.

“I’ve got employers contacting me that need people all year round, so I have students fitting in internships even during winter break,” Crane said. “They’re finding that it is cheaper to take an internship, because of the course credit, in the spring and the winter. It’s definitely something that my students consider.”

The program, which requires between a three- to six-credit hour internship, allows students to use both paid and non-paid internships for the credits. Crane said she encourages students to negotiate with employers to recuperate the costs of the internships, and about 50 percent of students are successful.

“Some employers go ‘Absolutely, that’s a great idea’, others actually can’t find it in their budget,” Crane said. “So, it’s up to the students if they would still like to work with the employer even though there’s no benefits. I see nine times out of 10 still continue to work there and take the internship. It’s just another way they try to negotiate.”

Students in the Early Childhood Education program face particularly hefty internship course load. The required internships, which are generally referred to within the major as field experiences, includes a six-credit-hour internship in preschool and a 12 credit-hour internship in kindergarten or primary school.

The current program’s roadmap goes over the current credit cap during three semesters — meaning the semester requires more than 16 credit hours to finish — but the department is tweaking the program to make it more cost-effective, said Janice Kroeger, associate professor and early childhood education internship coordinator.

“We were successful in doing that by just reevaluating the field experience credits,” Kroeger said. “Basically, we just looked all of our field experiences across the program and evaluated how many hours the students were actually in placements and then looked at those credits to see if we could change them.”

The new curriculum, which is going through the approval process, would require 123 credit hours instead of 128, reducing overload fees for students, Kroeger said. She added that at least one semester will still have an overload fee, “but it’s not as large as it has been.”

“I think it’s definitely going to be a benefit for student financially, because in two of those semesters they won’t have overload fees anymore,” Kroeger said.

Contact Lyndsey Schley at [email protected].