CCI Revises Internship Funding

By Caroline Agsten

 

The Center for Careers and Internships (CCI) changed its policies on funding for unpaid student summer internships at the beginning of this year, which has started to generate concern among students as they begin to make their summer plans. The CCI now offers only one-time $2500 Summer Internship Funding Grants for sophomores, juniors and senior Febs, and a separate $1000 Explore Grant for first years. This new policy reflects a change from when students could apply multiple times for varied monetary amounts, including those exceeding $2500. This is also the first year that these summer internship grants will cover lost wages in addition to logistical expenses.

Despite the change in policy, the application process for these grants remains the same. Students are required to submit an online application, including an essay, budget form and resume. The First Year Explore Grant also comes with the added stipulation of a mandatory resume review before applying. Students who have received summer funding previously are not subject to these changes and may apply for the set $2500 grant as well.

This change in funding is attributed to a number of different reasons based on student feedback and previous funding trends. Director of the CCI Peggy Burns said that the new policy is meant to give students the chance to be thoughtful and strategic with their plans.

“We are trying to empower students and have them be really intentional with their choices,” she said. “While we believe in letting students have time to explore their interests, we also want them to really consider their choices carefully in terms of asking for this funding opportunity. We’re not trying to make this process hard or formulaic, in fact we are trying to do the exact opposite.”    

Burns also noted that this change puts an emphasis on the crucial summer between a student’s junior and senior year.

The set amount of $2500 was reached based of data from past years and student input. “We don’t want to fund as many students as possible if we can’t give them adequate funding,” Burns said. “We want to be able to have a sustainable funded internship program that reaches students from across as many different disciplines, years, pursuits and passions as we can.”

Last year the average request for CCI-funded internships was $2545, and the average award was $1800. The $2500 figure is thus a significant increase from previously assigned awards. Burns noted that this fixed amount is also in keeping with the notion of student ownership throughout this process. “It used to be that a student would do a budget and we would base the funding off of that. Although they still have to fill out a budget for students to think through their expenses, it is really up to them to decide how they can best allocate this money,” she said.

According to Cheryl Lower, associate director of the CCI, this is the first year that these CCI-funded internships will cover lost wages for unpaid internships. “This is a big change from previous years,” she said. “Before, you could only be covered for transportation, lodging and food expenses.” Thus, even if a student only requires $1000 to make an internship opportunity work logistically, the remaining $1500 can be considered as lost wages for that unpaid experience.

However, there have still been student concerns that this set amount will not sufficiently cover their internship experiences. Lower said she helps advise students with these concerns to come up with other options for attaining those lost funds, both from College resources and otherwise. She noted that it is possible to combine funding opportunities at the College, such as with the grants offered by the Community Engagement Office.

Although the number of students applying for funding has steadily increased over the past few years, last year marked the first significant drop in applications. In 2011, only 63 students applied for funding. That number nearly quadrupled the following year with 220 applicants. However, while 363 students applied for funding in 2013, only 275 applied in 2014. Burns attributed this drop in applicants in part due to negative media coverage regarding exploitative unpaid student labor and increasing pressures for organizations to pay their interns.

The ratio of paid versus unpaid internships on the MOJO website has increased to nearly 70 percent paid to 30 percent unpaid from a 50-50 split in past years. Because of this previous decrease in applications, Burns does not anticipate this new change in funding policy to yield significantly lower numbers of student
applicants.

CCI-awarded funding, which nears half a million dollars, draws from about twenty different private funds. While many of these funds are very broad in terms of the types of internships they will finance, others are quite restrictive in nature. For example, certain funds are oriented toward internships within the environmental, arts or journalism interest areas. However, regardless of where the individual parts of the total amount of funding money come from, students are only required to go through one application process.

Burns also emphasized the broad definition of “internship” that these funds will support. In addition to traditional internships at nonprofit organizations, private offices and government branches, the CCI will also fund self-designed projects by
students.

“Middlebury is very committed to this real world experience and applied liberal arts learning. While many of our peer institutions have these types of funding programs, many have them at a much smaller level,” she said.

 

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CCI Revises Internship Funding