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My department has the undergraduates and the graduate students do a practicum. The department tries to get a corporate "sponsor," who pays the department to solve a problem, like an Operations Research problem. If the department doesn't find a sponsor, they usually do a math competition or work some other problems.

We, the students, have to pay about $1,200 in tuition to take this course and do the work for the company.

I don't like the idea of paying my school to do work for a company that the company also pays the school for.

I'd be fine with this if I didn't have to pay tuition or if the class was an elective.

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    The nerve of the school to try and get their students some real experience! The school has fixed costs associated with the course, and will put it on regardless of having an external partner or not. The external partner is likely losing money on having random folks come in and 'help' them solve a problem (at the least just on time spent making sure you all stay safe int their facility). Any actual money they pay to the university is likely a donation to help out the department keep producing students that they might hire eventually. Do well, and you might get a job eventually. – Jon Custer Aug 16 '16 at 19:54
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    @JonCuster Do you routinely pay to work for corporations? – user60356 Aug 16 '16 at 20:10
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    Assuming the practicum is properly documented in the catalog as a requirement of your program, your options are basically (1) get comfortable with it (2) ask nicely for an alternative and hope the powers that be will accomodate you (3) change programs or universities. Which would you like more information about? You won't have a lot of success claiming the arrangement is inherently improper - such setups are quite common and widely accepted, and the university's argument will basically be "you should have thought of that before enrolling in the program". – Nate Eldredge Aug 16 '16 at 20:19
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    @JackSt.Claire - You are paying the school to be in their program and get a credit. The fact that they will do a practicum without a sponsor shows that clearly. The fact that they can also get a corporation to both let you work with them as well as kick the school some money is an added bonus for both them and you. The opportunity provided you through a real practicum is well worth it so when you interview for a real job you can talk about how you worked with and impacted a real company problem, not some textbook. – Jon Custer Aug 16 '16 at 22:04
  • Have you considered that the cost of the course is probably far more than the 1200 you pay? Someone has to cover that shortfall, especially when it's not always possible to obtain sponsorship. The company will be paying enough to cover their own project plus a bit of the courses where no sponsor is involved. – Nij Aug 18 '16 at 19:42
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I doubt you will have much luck convincing the faculty to change their curriculum, which is subject to institutional vetting on dimensions that even graduate students may never hear about. However, they might be sympathetic enough to your concerns (expressed politely) to grant you the chance to work on a non-corporate problem. If not, expect to grin and bear it -- and do good enough work to put the experience on your resume/CV.

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