Unpaid internships create unfair financial burden for students

As the academic year comes to a close and summer vacation begins, students will be spending their academic time off in a variety of ways. Many students will opt to spend their time participating in internships they hope will help advance their career goals, and some will find internships that offer monetary compensation. A great deal of college-aged students, however, will be working for nothing at all. Employers must understand that there are detrimental effects that come as a result of neglecting to pay their interns.

The ultimate goal of internships is for young adults to spend a certain amount of time learning skills and gaining experience relevant to their ideal careers. In the process, interns network to gain access to people and resources that will aid in their endeavors and potentially open doors to full-time employment in the future. Some employers use these excuses to dismiss the option of paying their interns for the work that they do or, instead, offer academic credit for students in lieu of monetary payment. Skills, experience and academic credit, however, are not adequate forms of payment considering all of the expenses interns face.

Interns do not always have the luxury of being able to work in their hometown and live at home with their families. When this occurs, students apply for housing at local universities or find apartments or houses to sublease where they will have to pay rent and utilities. Other expenses like groceries and transportation also need to be considered. Depending on the city of the internship, all of the aforementioned factors can be a financial burden on young people receiving no form of income.

Considering the costs of paying for necessities, unpaid internships end up excluding students of lower socioeconomic statuses since they cannot pay for basic living expenses so easily.

When employers shut out these potential interns, they perpetuate a cycle of economic inequality. If economically disadvantaged students cannot obtain the same experience or networking of their wealthier counterparts, then they will not have the same number of opportunities in the future.

Many universities, including Tulane, are able to provide funding for students who might have trouble affording costs of living without income. For example, Tulane students can apply for grants from organizations like Newcomb-Tulane College, Newcomb College Institute and the Center for Engaged Learning and Teaching. Though there are many opportunities to garner funding, students are not always able to get the maximum compensation offered. Even if they can, it is not always enough to cover expenses in cities with high costs of living.

Experience, networking and academic credit are not forms of currency that can help unpaid interns afford necessary expenses. Some companies have come to this realization and pay their interns. Others must catch on in order to give all students a fair chance at achieving their goals. Internships are the first step into adulthood, and payment is a proper way for employers to treat interns as adults.

This is an opinion article and does not reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo. Daniel is a rising senior at Newcomb-Tulane College. He can be reached at [email protected].

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