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A new VCU program will help make some internships more financially viable for students. (Getty Images)

New VCU program provides funding for unpaid or underpaid internships

The goal of the VCU Internship Funding Program is to support at least 50 undergraduate students for summer 2022.

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College students often must decide between taking an unpaid or underpaid internship that provides a beneficial learning experience or choosing a job that provides needed financial resources. A new program from Virginia Commonwealth University aims to make that decision easier.

VCU students now can apply to the VCU Internship Funding Program, created this year by VCU Career Services and funded by the Division of Strategic Enrollment Management and Student Success through the Student Life and Learning Fund. The program will help make some internships more financially viable for students. Internships can help students gain clarity in their career goals and provide workplace experience, which can lead to networking opportunities with employers.

Applications for funding opened in the Ram Scholarship Hub on Jan. 24 and students have until March 15 to apply. Students must submit proof of internship application if they don’t yet have a written offer in hand.

“Ideally, we will be able to fund at least 50 undergraduate students for summer 2022 experiences, at up to $5,000 per student,” said Samara Reynolds, director of VCU Career Services.

Funds may be requested to support internship-related costs including, but not limited to, housing, transit/travel, professional attire or supplies, food, utilities, hourly support for lost wages, child care, or other applicable expenses. Applicants will complete a detailed budget worksheet to indicate their funding needs, as well as other sources of income during the internship experience. Funding cannot be used to pay tuition or fees to VCU, another institution, or to an employer or external organization for a “pay-to-work” internship program that charges students to participate.

Students will be notified of their selection status by mid-April and be asked to complete specific steps to verify their eligibility (including proof of offer and confirmation by an internship employer representative), complete direct deposit paperwork, and answer pre-experience assessment questions in the Handshake system, which can be used to measure program effectiveness by the end of the summer.

“Our plan is for funding to be distributed to student awardees in early May,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds said Tomikia P. LeGrande, Ed.D., vice president of the Division of Strategic Enrollment Management and Student Success, was instrumental in turning the dream of the internship fund into a reality.

“From team concept to institutional implementation, the VCU Internship Funding Program has taken two and a half years to launch, and we can’t wait to see how it grows from here,” Reynolds said. 

Reynolds said the program could expand to benefit many more students in the years ahead.

“As we grow this important initiative in support of long-term student success, we hope that alumni, external partners and members of the broader VCU community will consider donating to the VCU [Student Life and Learning Fund],” Reynolds said. “While this year is an important pilot for the [program], our ideal is to be able to support hundreds of VCU students to engage in internships throughout the year (fall, spring and summer), allowing more students to create pathways to high-quality, postgraduate positions.”