Unpaid internships are an example of privilege

Alexis Rapoza – Anchor Contributor

Internships are seen as a right of passage in college and most colleges encourage or require that their students participate in an internship for at least one semester, which I think is a good idea. I interned for a local radio station back in 2017 and it was one of the most educational and enlightening experiences. I was even lucky enough to be offered a job afterwards. Something I don’t agree with, however, is the fact that college students are forced to work at least part time for no pay.

Graphic courtesy of PNGTree

Unpaid internships are a hot button topic, especially considering the rise in the amount of full-time students working 40 hours a week. With living expenses and college tuition prices so high, students are forced to split their time between school and work. I now know firsthand how difficult that can be. You seem to not have enough hours in the day to accomplish everything you need to accomplish. When you throw in an internship requirement, it’s nearly impossible.

Interns are often seen as the low man on the totem pole. It makes sense for an intern to be paid less than an employee who has been working at the same company for 25 years, but I believe that interns should be paid at least minimum wage. Unpaid internships are not accessible to everyone and that’s something I think needs to be discussed more.

The United States Department of Labor offers six rules companies need to follow in order to not have to pay interns: “The internship must be for academic credit. The intern and the company must both understand that the intern won’t be compensated monetarily for their work. Interns can not replace employees but instead must be there to help and learn from them. The internship must be an educational experience. Internships can only last for the amount of time the student will be receiving credit for it. The intern must understand that they are not entitled to a job after.”

As you can see, the rules for companies providing these unpaid internships are vague, if anything, and usually are not enforced. Recently, there has been a development of unpaid interns suing companies for doing what they believe should be paid work. The hiring rate of people who participated in unpaid internships is also significantly lower than that of those who were paid.

I think all around unpaid internships are just not a great idea. Generally, unpaid internships do not provide the same amount of weight on a resume that a paid internship does. They also continue to enforce classism that is ever so present in the college scene, which is an example of privilege. In simple terms, students from lower income families can simply not afford to participate in unpaid internships and I believe that education should be accessible to everyone, not just people who can afford it.