Internships during the collegiate years can provide quality, real-world experience for students before entering their career fields following graduation. But requiring students to pay for internship credits, which are often required in order to graduate, is both costly and unfair.

Elon students want college credit for their internships. Actually, many of them need it.

All Elon students are currently required to complete at least one Experiential Learning Requirement in order to graduate. These experiences could be internships, practicums, co-ops service-learning projects, study abroads or leadership experience.

But students may not consider that in order to fulfill this requirement, they usually have to pay the university to receive the required academic credit.

The number of required internship credits varies by major and department. Students who choose to complete internships during the fall or spring semesters are not required to pay extra money besides tuition costs in order to receive the necessary credits, as long as their schedules do not exceed 18 credit hours that semester.

But during summer months, which  many students spend as interns, students are required to pay per credit hour. According to the Elon University Bursar’s Office website, students pay $416 per credit hour for summer tuition costs, with most summer internships typically falling in the one-to-four-credit range.

It is understandable why students pay for credits that are gained from instructor-led classes conducted over the course of a semester, but having to pay for the hours spent working for free as an intern seems callous.

What it boils down to is this: Elon benefits financially from internships they may have had little to no part in helping students find. And while Elon heavily advertises its career services offices and various undergraduate networks as essential internship search tools, many students feel they were on their own once they began the internship search.

With the average cost of college rising every year, students are often required to work for unpaid internships.

For example, in the entertainment industry, internships that offer hands-on professional experience are primarily concentrated in New York and Los Angeles. The costs of having to relocate to a new city and work for no money, in addition to required living expenses, certainly lightens many students’ wallets.

Meanwhile, other students who seek to obtain local internships while living at home are still subject to heavy transportation costs by commuting. Students often give up the opportunity for paid work during the summer in order to accommodate the scheduling and travel restraints of their internship sites.

Furthermore, Elon students who substantially rely on financial aid and subsidized loans to pay their way through college may not have the financial liberty of forking over the extra money for what is essentially required to complete their degrees, never mind getting a job.

Make no mistake, internships are valuable, and Elon students should be encouraged to go out and participate in them whenever possible. But they shouldn’t have to do so at the expense of their savings accounts.

Elon should either substantially reduce the current rate students pay for credit hours earned through internships, or should just eliminate the cost altogether.

Is it really appropriate to charge Elon students for credit hours they are required to have when some are already sacrificing quite a bit to earn them? We don’t think so.

Students shouldn’t be expected to have to pay for real-world experience. But with several departments at Elon requiring students to earn at least one internship credit toward their degree,  students have no alternative but to cough up the extra cash.

There is more to a college education than just the price tag; you shouldn’t have to put a dollar value on experience.