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COLUMN: Are Unpaid Internships the Sound of Economic Opportunity?

A fresh take

guest columnist

Published: Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Updated: Friday, February 21, 2014 12:02

In the Boston Globe, we hear the beginnings of a revolution. Many unpaid interns are filing lawsuits to their former employers for pay. The rise of the storm has only gained strength since the New York Times published an article featuring a federal district judge who ruled that Fox Searchlight Pictures had violated federal and New York minimum wage laws by not paying production interns. Hard work deserves tangible results, not just an entry on a resume shouting to the world, “I love being exploited. Please take advantage of me because I am young and inexperienced.”

Based on the findings of, 60 percent of students report that unless they obtain internships, they will be ineligible for college graduation. This change in graduation requirements led to a sudden rise in demand of both paid and unpaid internships. The Department of Labor decreed an unpaid internship is only lawful as a training program and must compensate interns with academic credit. Accordingly, internships that do not compensate interns in terms of money or college credit are illegal. Capitalizing on the increase of demand of internships, some businesses have opted to displace paid labor in favor of unpaid internships. Consequently, unpaid internships have led to a rise of unemployment and the deterioration of the economy through job loss.

From American Student Assistance, we learn two key facts about college finances: Nearly 20 million Americans attend college each year, and of that 20 million, close to 12 million — or 60 percent — borrow annually to help cover costs. As every college student knows, you can only have two of four things: good grades, work, a social life or sleep — three if you’re really good at time management. The choice students face in financing their education is working while at school or living by their savings. After paying tuition, rent, utilities, textbooks and groceries, most students are in the red.

Making ends meet is difficult as it is, but throwing an unpaid internship into the mix means selling your soul to the financial devil. Students must choose to enter into financial bondage or pay the price in unrealized opportunities. By design, unpaid internships rob students without shame.

In 2013, the National Association of Colleges and Employers brings to light the awful truth that unpaid internships do not demonstrate a significant increase in employability. Their research determined the correlation between full employment and internships. Let’s look at the numbers.



Job Offers

No Work Experience

35 percent

Unpaid Internship

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