Changes In Grading, No More Internship Credits

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Maybe you will get paid for this now?

Maybe you will get paid for this now?

Columbia releases all announcements on Friday mornings, including one from a few minutes ago that states that effective immediately, CC and SEAS (and a similar email was also sent out to GS students)  “will no longer provide registration credit (R credit) on academic transcripts to note that a student has participated in an internship.”

Columbia will instead adopt a policy similar to peer institutions of pressuring companies into fairly compensating their student interns. Yale and Princeton, for instance, don’t award credit for internships. Harvard undergrads can’t use internships in themselves to obtain credit, but they can put them toward independent study. U Chicago has yet to join the bandwagon to abolishing academic credit opportunities. NYU allows students to receive credit for both paid and unpaid internships.

It’s illegal under the Fair Labor Standards Act for companies to benefit from an intern’s work and not compensate them in some way. That’s why some companies get out of paying their interns by requiring them to obtain credit through their academic institutions. It just got a whole lot harder in the short term for Columbia students to secure those kinds of unpaid internships. A committee will be reviewing exceptions on a case-by-case basis for providing credit to students who have already accepted internships for academic credit.

The email also mentioned a change to withdrawal policies—now students can withdraw with an Add/Drop form (no petitioning, as before) up to the eleventh week in the semester, so long as they remain full-time students. The mark will still be on your transcript, but you won’t receive a grade.

Read the full email below.

Dear Students,

I am writing to let you know about two changes in grading policy applicable to all students in the College.

Withdrawing from a course (mark of W):

Columbia College students can now elect to withdraw from a non-Core course after the drop deadline in the fifth week of the semester (which this semester is February, 25, 2014) until the P/D/F deadline in the eleventh week of the semester (which this semester is March 27, 2014). This is a change to previous policy which allowed Columbia College students to withdraw (receive a mark of W) only by petitioning the Committee on Academic Standing in our Center for Student Advising.

If you elect to withdraw from a course during this time, the course will remain on your transcript and the mark of W, but no points of academic credit, will be recorded for that course. Each student is responsible for maintaining a full-time status (12 points a semester) and those who do not may face academic probation, suspension or dismissal from the College.

To elect a mark of W, you must complete a Columbia College Acknowledgement of Course Withdrawal and a Registration/Add/Drop Form and take them to the Center for Student Advising in 403 Lerner for processing. The mark of W will be recorded on your behalf. Please note that it is strongly recommended that you have an advising conversation before you elect to withdraw from a course.

Internship Registration Credits (R credit):

Columbia College, together with The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science and the Columbia School of General Studies, will no longer provide registration credit (R credit) on academic transcripts to note that a student has participated in an internship. There is no doubt that internships can be valuable experiences for students seeking an introduction to a range of careers and professional cultures. However, we expect companies to appropriately compensate students for work performed during internships. Our new policy is one adopted by many of our peer institutions and also is in accordance with the Fair Labor Standards Act and NY State’s Minimum Wage Act and Wage Orders. Click here for additional information regarding unpaid internships.

While this policy will be effective immediately, the Committee on Academic Standing in our Center for Student Advising will consider exceptions on a case-by-case basis for any student who has already accepted an internship for which employers believe that R credit will be awarded. We will continue to support student participation in internships and will be happy to provide letters acknowledging this support if such letters are requested by employers.

Please do not hesitate to reach out to your advising dean if you have any questions or would like additional information about either policy change.


Kathryn Yatrakis

Dean of Academic Affairs

Columbia College

Now just as well-paid as your friendly Starbucks barista via Shutterstock

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  1. can you make the links?

    "Click here for additional information regarding unpaid internships."

  2. Foreigner  

    This is exactly what international students need! Hey, why don't you cut our OPT time by half while you're at it?

    • wow

      I didn't even know that existed.

    • CC-13

      You still put it on your resume, no? What's the complaint about OPT here for? Besides, if it's unpaid, you need not apply for OPT. I'd check out what I don't know that I should if I were you. And I am a former international student.

      • CC '15  

        Most - if not all - internships that provide college credit ONLY accept students who are eligible for receiving credit so we aren't able to 'still put it on our resume'. This new policy thus leaves students interested in these positions unable to take the internship in the first place. As for the OPT comment, I think that you misunderstood Foreigner's sarcasm; he/she meant that if the university is to cut international students' already limited internship prospects by eliminating for-credit opportunities, they might as well cut our OPT time and leave us hopeless.

  3. alum  

    Wow - Columbia just made it harder for its students to get a leg up in career placement in about 10-15 industries, especially media and publishing...

    • Anonymous  

      Maybe there will be some kinks in the short term. But you know whose labor is worthless enough to go unpaid? NYU students. You know whose careers demand to be taken seriously by employers? Columbians, motherfucker. Pay up or shut up is the new standard.

      • Anonymous

        ...the standard can't be changed that quickly, so NYU students will have the advantage until our society thinks differently about unpaid internships. Will this help society get to that place? Perhaps. Will will be fucked over until we get there? Somewhat, in certain industries.

        • Anonymous

          it's a sort of collective action problem, in that it won't be effective unless all schools participate, so I'm glad that Columbia is joining peer institutions in recognizing the current trend of unpaid internships is undesirable and untenable.

          if places can't afford to pay an intern or if they think intern work isn't worth being paying for, then they shouldn't hire one. instead, we've gotten to the point where the internship craze/anxiety is so extreme that places are taking on interns when they don't even necessarily need them because they know there's plenty of students who are so desperate to get experience on their resumes no matter what.

          hopefully schools who haven't signed on yet will realize that the short term benefits of their students getting unpaid internships aren't worth propping up a culture/system where several years of unpaid drudgery (subsidized by parents who can afford it) is a prerequisite to any sort of career.


      • alum  

        a free NYU intern is more valuable to a business than a paid Columbia one. 18-22 year olds aren't as valuable in the marketplace as they think they are.

        • CC'14  

          I love how people talk about the exemption program as if it actually gives students money to live on instead of just slicing of a portion of their expected contribution to their tuition

    • Anonymous

      except for its students who can't afford to take unpaid internships...

  4. Anonymous

    What does this mean for people who are in internships right now for academic credit?

  5. Anonymous

    Clearly, but that doesn't address the fact that Columbia is choosing to support students of the future and everyone of the future over the interests of its current students.

  6. Anonymous

    What does this mean? Sometimes getting credit is worth a lot more financially than a few hundred bucks cash.

  7. Took Columbia long enough

    We freed the slaves in 1865. There is no reason any internship should be unpaid- how hard is it to fork over 10-15 dollars an hour? Answer- it's not.
    When you accept an unpaid internship, you devalue yourself as well as other Columbians applying in the same industry. We are a premium product, no one should get us for free.

    I don't say this often, but Good work Columbia.

  8. Anonymous  

    very impressed with CU. this shows rare consistency and virtue.

  9. Anon  

    So on the one hand, I am really in support of federal legislation to crack down on unpaid internships.

    On the other hand, a lot of places *won't offer internships* to anyone who can't get credit, precisely because they don't want to fall afoul of labor law. And that means that suddenly Columbia students can't get internships in a lot of industries. Yale and Princeton might be able to pressure companies to pay their interns, but how many other universities are there in New Haven? If a New Haven office wants interns and Yale says they have to pay up, then they have to pay up. If a New York City office wants interns and Columbia says they have to pay up, then they just hire NYU students. This just puts us at a huge disadvantage relative to our peers at other institutions. At the end of the day, New Haven and Princeton are not the same as NYC. Add to that the fact that a lot of people come to Columbia, in New York, precisely *because* it affords them the opportunity to get professional experience.

    Again, I think unpaid internships are a pretty fucked up institution, but all this does is make it really hard for our students, and *just* our students, to explore job options. It's a collective action problem and it's best solved by the government, not by us unilaterally disarming.

    And to the idea that Columbia students are worth paying for and NYU students aren't -- I've had a lot of prestigious internships and fellowships, and I've competed with, worked alongside, and yes, even lost to, students from NYU, the New School, and CUNY. There are smart, talented, hardworking people everywhere and a lot of the time job experience is going to matter a hell of a lot more than where your degree is from.

  10. international student  

    yeah a free green card would also be nice

  11. CC'15  

    Columbia means well, but the execution is poor. Not rewarding credit for unpaid internships will only hinder some students from entering certain careers such as communications, publishing, fashion, journalism, etc. Resting on the laurels of being a Columbia student is not enough to cut in any industry nowadays, and internships are a way for students to gain experience and become more marketable. I'm not exactly sure what a compromise between the desire to eliminate unpaid internships and the need for students to have working experience would look like policy-wise, but some warning that they were discussing the change would have been nice.

  12. anon  

    Anyone in favor of unpaid internships in any form is pro-slavery and you should be ashamed of yourselves. Your arguments above about how we need unpaid internships are all the same as saying "we can't free the blacks from slavery because they might have a hard time getting paid jobs". For a school that is supposed to be full of progressive, liberal students this behavior is insane. Check yourselves

    • Stop, stop...  

      you're cracking me up…anyone who favors any form of unpaid internship is pro-slavery? What is this, Glenn Back and Bill O'Reilly gone hyper-liberal? Please…

      No, some internships don't provide value to organizations, and are largely about allowing a student the opportunity to see how a certain career actually is before he or she enters the labor market. You know, shadow a researcher in a lab, spend some time in a public defender's office, explore what actually goes into being a kindergarten/high school teacher, follow a Congressional staffer--I could go on. The value you provide is minimal, but the benefits gained can be enormous. Why don't I want to be a lawyer or doctor? Because I saw firsthand what those careers were like, and they didn't appeal to me.

      Sure, there's plenty of opportunity for abuse, I agree. But if employers follow the law (essentially, you learn while not replacing a paid worker), the opportunity afforded--finding out about your future path in life and whether it's actually right for you over the next 30, 40, 50 years--is far, far more important than any minimum wage semester-long position.

  13. Anonymous

    Columbia, Yale, Princeton, and Harvard (basically the top four schools in the country) are fighting for their students to get paid for interships. The pressure has to start somewhere.

    • employer

      I don't need to pay an Ivy League kid to make copies and fetch coffee. I can find hundreds of state schoolers to do that. And I'll think more highly of them for sacrificing for me and for being willing to pay his/her dues.

      • That's a job

        @employer: Those are tasks that can be carried out by a particularly bright chimpanzee, much less students at state schools, who may not have the prestige of an Ivy League education but are often no less intelligent than the students who do.

        All I'm gonna say is that, legally speaking, you better fucking pay whoever it is you have doing your bitchwork.

        • employer

          If you want a minimum wage job, work at walmart. If you want a real career in a high-profile industry, suck it up. If you can't afford it, oh well. Life ain't fair. Your attending Columbia is probably unfair to someone who didn't get in who had better board scores, but didn't fit the right category the school was looking for.

          The casting couch is real, too.

          Them's the breaks. Welcome to the real world. John Mayer's song is meaningless. So is Bruce Hornsby's (if you even get the reference)

  14. Conspiracist

    Is this Columbia's way of pushing students toward industries that pay well? (engineering, etc.). Maybe they anticipate the added difficulty and purposely are raising a barrier to entry.

  15. WEP student

    Does anyone know if a student receiving a Work Exemption Program stipend for an unpaid internship is still considered an unpaid intern, even though they are receiving compensation through Columbia?

  16. premed

    what is an internship?

  17. BC

    I obviously think internships should be paid, but I think a better move for Columbia as a whole would be to offer *real* credit so unpaid interns have time to do things like work paying jobs and put adequate time into their schoolwork, in addition to working unpaid internships. If they really want to help us, they can actually give us something in exchange for all the work we do, when companies will not. I don't know about CC/SEAS/GS, but Barnard requires that anyone who gets "co-curricular credit" (aka absolutely nothing) for an unpaid internship also has to write an essay on the experience and meet with a career counselor to talk about it...I'm not saying that's a lot of work, but why should we have to do that, plus our unpaid internship duties, in exchange for literally nothing? Co-curricular credit doesn't even show up on our transcripts. It's ridiculous to make us jump through all these hoops just so we can work for nothing. Sigh.

  18. They could've just...  

    ...said "Fuck you internationals, we're not letting you get work experience till you apply for full time...

    ...and by the way you're not getting those either. Not unless you want to work in IT. Oh, you don't want to work in IT? What an entitled Ivy League piece of shit! Lemme give your PoliSci anchor baby American friend an i-banker job. That will make you see the value of your SEAS degree.... if you got one to begin with. heh. Fuck you."

  19. BC

    Ok I was trying to stand up for all parts of CU but if you want to be an ignorant asshole, by all means, go ahead.

  20. SEAS  

    "because our degree requirements are so rigorous" lol

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