Thirteen college presidents urged the federal government this week not to set educational standards for students’ internships.
[Northeastern University President Joseph] Aoun, whose institution is known for cooperative education, which combines classroom learning and applied work, has two main concerns: that the Labor Department may try to regulate the educational value of internships, and, in the process, scare off employers from collaborating with colleges on unpaid internship programs for academic credit or notation on transcripts.
The trouble has to do with the concept of meaningful work. The guidelines clarified by the Department of Labor earlier this month explain that if “the intern performs no or minimal work, the activity is more likely to be viewed as a bona fide education experience.” But who defines meaningful work?
This preference for minimal work runs contrary to the expectations of most colleges and students (and even, arguably, employers), who expect students to do real work. That is, after all, why college students get academic credit for unpaid internships at all.
Read the letter from the college presidents here.