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Mar 03, 2014 02:36 PM EST

Columbia University To No Longer Offer School Credit For Internships


Columbia University in New York is ending academic credit for internships in an effort to pressure employers to pay interns in accordance with Labor Department Guidelines, Newsweek reported.

The policy will take effect immediately, however, there may be exceptions for students who have already signed on for internships "that expect them to be receiving "R" credits, which don't count towards graduation, Newsweek reported.

"There is no doubt that internships can be valuable experiences for students seeking an introduction to a range of careers and professional cultures," Dean of Academic Kathryn Yatrakis wrote in a campus email obtained by Newsweek. "However, we expect companies to appropriately compensate students for work performed during internships."

Yatrakis added that the University's new policy is consistent with "many of our peer institutions," a well as the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The new policy casts doubt on two fantasies of internship providers: "that academic credit poses a legal basis for uncompensated labor - and that it might magically transform a summer spent manning coffee machines into an educational experience," Newsweek reported.

Peter Sterne, a Columbia student who founded a Tumblr to track which media companies pay their interns, applauded the decision. 

"Whether or not you agree that unpaid internships are illegal or not, I think we can all agree that this idea of providing 'R' credits for unpaid internships really didn't make any sense," Sterne told Newsweek. "It was really only there to assuage the fears of employers. It was a loophole, a workaround, a fig leaf."

Another high-profile Manhattan university ramping up its internship regulations this month is New York University. The school tightened its screening process for internships - paid or otherwise - "listed on its online jobs board, a move that drew praise from labor activists who view colleges as crucial gatekeepers in the unpaid internship rat race," Newsweek reported.

Both schools discourage for-profit companies from using academic credit as justification to forego compensation. 

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