By Donald Halsing
My father graduated from Framingham State College, as it was known in 1985, without any debt.
He could afford to pay the $700 tuition and fees per semester – plus books – by working all summer along with Saturdays during the school year.
I wish my college experience were the same.
As an underclassman, I lived on campus. I took out loans to pay for my studies and living expenses.
As an upperclassman, I still rely on federal loans to cover my education. Most of the money I earn from my job gets eaten by the card reader at the gas pump and the cash register at AutoZone.
Because I’m working so much, my life is marked by an unhealthy imbalance among school, work, and social activities. I’m not alone, either – many of my peers are living paycheck to paycheck covering their out-of-pocket college costs.
FSU’s leadership must evaluate how much time and money students can spare for an education. The educational world is changing, and it’s time for FSU to change with it.
Students would benefit from more paid, credit-bearing internship opportunities. Such opportunities would alleviate a lot of the stress students feel about the cost of college.
A full-time college program for a bachelor’s degree – four years, major classes, general education, electives, and minors – doesn’t work for all students. The next generation of college students might find themselves in a different program.
Imagine the University offering this plan for incoming students:
A freshman student takes two gen eds, four major classes, and two electives in their first year – just as they do already. These classes are introductory and easy, so students can balance their studies with a minimum-wage job.
As a sophomore, they take two gen eds and four major classes again, but with a paid internship throughout the year filling two credits. They earn credit for their work and some money to cover out-of-pocket costs.
As a junior, students continue that paid internship alongside four other courses. Now the internship fills four of their credits as they apply more advanced skills, and they can apply the knowledge gained in their classes.
And as a senior, students follow the same schedule: continuing to earn credit and money from their internships, and ready to earn their degree without as much debt as today’s college students.
Of course, this plan is not an end-all be-all solution. It’s just one idea that might work for some students.
The plan I propose is a compromise.
It’s a compromise between classroom time and hands-on learning. It would require coordination between professors and employers to create course materials that prepare students for active work experience.
While the program I propose would require fewer general education requirements, the courses students would take could be structured around a few simple learning requirements, including diversity, ethics, and civics.
The COVID-19 pandemic’s impacts demonstrated just how important it is for the University to be flexible and adapt to today’s students’ needs. A four-year schedule won’t work for all students.
FSU should offer undergraduate programs with fewer classroom courses replaced by paid, credit-bearing internships.
Other colleges, such as Northeastern University offer “cooperative education” or “co-op” programs. Students alternate between semesters of classroom experience and full-time work.
The close connections Northeastern shares with local employers is exactly what FSU needs to forge in order to provide students with as many learning options and opportunities as possible.
FSU’s Mancuso Humanities Workforce Preparation Center already offers a handful of $1,200 stipends each year to assist humanities students enrolled in semester-long internships.
English professor Halcyon Mancuso has recognized that students are struggling to make money and that paid internship opportunities offer financial relief.
While her generous donations can’t support every student, the stipends offered by the Center are a perfect example of what this University needs more of.
A much larger, more encompassing system needs to be created by FSU’s leadership to connect students with internship opportunities that offer compensation through stipends or directly through employers.
There must be more partnerships between FSU and local employers.
If FSU’s leaders want their students to succeed, they need to consider methods to help their students pay at least part of their way through college.
Offering credit and payment internships is a simple solution that helps FSU attract students, employers attract employees, and students worry a little bit less about their finances and future.
If FSU’s leaders don’t offer more paid, credit-bearing internships, the University will surely see a decline in student satisfaction.
Students who worry less about paying for college can dedicate more time to their academic studies, internship opportunities, and future careers.