College to eliminate $900 fee for summer internships

By Matt Won

International students received word last Thursday from International Student Program Coordinator Aaron Colhapp that they would no longer have to pay the college an approximately $900 credit fee for their summer internships.

This work must be done for credit and up until now, international students were forced to pay school tuition for the one credit necessary to comply with US work eligibility requirements. The school’s new policy waives this fee for international students.

The debate over this policy has been constant for the eight years that Colhapp has been working for the school, with students asking if the US government policy is discriminatory, why should the school play along and force the students to pay for the necessary credit, when it could simply waive the fees?

Many questioned the merits of a policy that financially discouraged what the college admits is an important part of Macalester’s educational philosophy.

Internship Director Michael Porter called the old policy a disincentive to valuable internships. “I think it put a lot of students in a position of having to decide `Can I make enough money in this job, this internship, to counter the cost of the credit?'”

An average of 25 international students each summer took internships in the United States the last several years, and became a revenue source for the college. The college’s announcement last Thursday came late in the game for many students, who have already planned their summers.

“[The timing] is probably later than would have been ideal because maybe then more students would have thought about an internship, a paid one, but most students I’ve talked to have been thrilled,” Porter said. “I think they were gonna make the decision to do the internship anyway, and this is just an $890 bonus.”

Na Yeon Oh ’07 interned summers in Singapore, where she grew up, in jobs including Media Corporation’s Singapore Idol, but thought working in the States would be a good opportunity. “[The credit fee] didn’t discourage me,” Oh said. “If you do get an internship in the states, that’s wonderful and even if you pay $900, if you’re getting paid more than that then it’s always an incentive to work here.”

Derrick Fernando ’06, an Economics major, has interned at many United States jobs, including positions at Catholic Charities and General Motors Acceptance Corporation. But he was forced to make ends meet the summer after his first year paying $645 for a Macalester College credit in order to take a job that paid a $6 hourly wage.

“[The policy change] might encourage people to actually register for an internship in the US even if it’s unpaid, because I know people who did unpaid internships and spent $740 [as a credit fee to the college],” Fernando said.

While the old fee put international students in a Catch-22 of staying in America to work and paying the fee versus flying home to work, economic hardship left some international students with even fewer options.

“They’re caught in a real bad situation,” Colhapp said. “Numerous ones never go home in the four years they’re at Macalester because they can’t possibly afford a ticket home.”