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Are students paying to work?

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Matt Berry, a third year child and youth worker student, waits in his program’s office for his final marks. Next semester, he will be away from the school and at an internship. He says he is confused as to why he is paying a full tuition for a semester that he won’t even be in the school for.

By Shelby Wye

Matt Berry waits in the child and youth worker’s office for one of his final assignments to be edited by one of his professors. The room is colourful, with one poster taking prominence by his teacher’s door. “ARE YOU READY FOR PLACEMENT?”

Berry is taking the steps to be ready. Berry is required to be up to date on all immunizations, and have clearance from the police to work with children. All of this averages at $30, or more, depending on how many immunizations a student has missed. Berry is currently in the process of getting a car, which means even more expenses. He estimates that his truck will cost about $80 a week for gas.

Students on their internships are also expected to pay the full amount of tuition (which can be more than $1800) for that semester, which puzzles Berry.

“This is my last year, and my most expensive year. It’s also the year I spend the least amount of time here,” Berry said.

Berry will be working in a short-term residential treatment centre just outside of Belleville, Monday to Friday for 40-plus hours a week. This leaves him no time to get a part-time job.

“I’m basically just relying on the fact that my internship will hire me once I’m done,” he explained, but that is no guarantee.

Aaron Moore is a third year TV and new media student. He is a father and husband along with being a full time student. His program requires two internship periods, both of which begin when the spring semester ends. This means he has no time during the summer to earn money because he is busy working for free.

“We already have enough experience from college to at least have the skills to be paid minimum wage if not more,” Moore said. He says he is frustrated with the internship process, especially since his placement last summer forced him to take out yet another loan to help support himself and his family during that time.

“Our generation pays the most, we have the most debt, we have more debt before we are born than anyone else, and then we have to start our careers by working for free…I feel like I am paying for work, ” said Moor.

“Consider internship like another course,” explains Laura Naumann, the director of student enrollment. Usually, internship is considered something separate than the usual classes, but she explains that it is integrated with the regular class content.

“Just because the students aren’t here, doesn’t mean that their teachers aren’t working,” Naumann explained.

Students are required to pay the thousands of dollars for tuition despite being here because the school still needs to support the school, said Naumann.

The funds pay the teachers that still have to mark students for their internship period. Their professors also have to spend time speaking with the employers for their input on the students’ work. Also, on top of the teachers time, the money goes towards insurance fees.

She suggests that students can get OSAP and other student loans, if they are moving away from home for their internship.

Loyalist’s Vice-President Academic John McMahon was unavailable to comment for this article on the matter.

Berry respects the need to pay the students, but still believes the costs to be excessive. He is aware that some of the tuition costs go towards school ‘extras’, such as the school’s healthcare and fitness center. He wishes he could opt out of these expenses, since he won’t be in the area to use them.

“We’re only here for a semester so we should really be paying just a semester,” he said is fine with paying money towards insurance and the faculty over the internship period.

However, he cannot understand why it’s the same amount as when he’s in class. “I’m basically paying to be unpaid,” he said.

He believes his internship employer will hire him for the summer, but since nothing is a guarantee, Berry has to prepare for the fact he may be facing his summer rent and have no money to pay it.

His final assignments are due within the next two weeks, and after Christmas break, he will be finished with classes.

If all goes well at his internship, Berry will proceed to graduate and find a place for himself in the world of a child and youth worker, a place that he hopes he actually gets paid.

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