New fees for gaining experience
By Becky Somerville
Last Thursday saw the Board of Governors pass a recommendation to implement a $350 fee for students in computer science, actuarial science and administrative and commercial studies who accept an internship position.
The fee, which does not take effect until next year, also affects the Engineering Industry Internship Program, increasing the fee from $400 to $650.
The internship program is facilitated by the Student Development Centre and prior to the recommendation was funded through a student levy, explained Peter Mercer, VP-administration at Western.
"All we're doing is cost recovery," he said.
Mercer explained the new fees are being charged as a result of the increasing costs to the SDC's Internship Program for advertising, maintaining a web site and offering individual counselling to students. He added most other universities already have these fees in place.
Director at the SDC, Gail Hutchinson, said the program has grown considerably and the number of applications for internships has increased by 71 per cent over the last two years.
"We expect it to grow and want the growth to continue," she said.
Hutchinson explained only those students who accept an internship will be required to pay the fee and they will be allowed three to four months into their internship to pay.
"Most students are placed in positions where they're making $30,000 to $40,000 per year," she added.
The SDC's internship program is very labour intensive and technologically organized and requires more money and more people to compensate, Hutchinson added.
Doug Vancise, lecturer and academic counsellor at the department of computer science said he was puzzled by the new internship fees and what they were being used for.
"An intern in computer science essentially takes a year off school and is being asked to pay for it," Vancise said.
He questioned whether or not installing these fees was the proper way to handle the situation since it appears the students are being charged for a service.
"Probably students will feel resigned to pay it," Vancise said.
William Kulju, a third-year computer science student said after paying rent and a student loan it is very difficult to afford to pay an internship fee. He added unless you obtain an internship on your own, without the assistance of SDC, you should not have to pay.
Rick Walton, a third-year computer science student, said the new fees make internship undesirable. "It's the university's obligation to educate the students. If we're well educated then employers will want to hire us. We've already paid, we shouldn't have to pay again."