Internships favor the privileged

In a world where talent is equally distributed, we see that opportunity is not. Experience has become a crucial part of students’ resumes and the question has risen as to whether or not internships are just another way to oppress minority students.

As the summer season ends, students will return to campus with stories of how they worked part-time jobs to save up for the fall semester. Others, who were able to, will return with stories of their summer internships. There will be those who had the privilege to have paid internships, while others had unpaid internships.

But what is the difference between paid and unpaid internships?

The difference is students are having to choose between being paid for the experience that could boost their resumes and potentially take longer to graduate, or receive course credit and not have a sufficient income for them and their families.

“The majority of those in paid internships did not receive course credit for their experience; among those who were in unpaid internships, 72 percent earned credit,” according to The National Association of Colleges and Employers’ Class of 2016 Student Survey Report.

Some internships have the benefit of possibly offering employment after graduation, even more so for those students with paid internships.

But how are low-income students supposed to be able to find paid internships?

Students often hear the saying “it’s all about whom you know,” when in reality it’s just another excuse for privileged students to remain privileged.

Privilege has essentially become a prerequisite for paid internships.

Students also face worse employment prospects as previous generations, yet one of the six listed criteria for internships is that “the intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship,” according to “The Fair Labor Standards Act.”

Students then worry that dedicating time to internships is essentially not beneficial to their careers, as they are not promised employment at the end of the internship.

However, the students who have the privilege to be able to participate in internships do not have the same worry as students who must work to make ends meet.

“Unpaid internships create a pay-to-play system since only some people can afford to work for zero dollars for longer than a week or two,” said Ross Perling in his book, “Intern Nation”.

“This ultimately exacerbates social inequality because key professions get filled up with people from privileged backgrounds,” Perling said.

Students who have unpaid internships essentially end up having to pay for the experience they need to even qualify for employment.

“If you consider the earnings that unpaid interns are missing out on, and how much they have to spend to live in expensive cities with large intern populations, an unpaid internship could cost you as much as $12,986,” according to a Look Sharp Report.

Look Sharp is a company that matches student and recent graduates with internships in their career fields. .

The same report also found that “while 63% of male interns were paid, only 45% of female students were compensated.”

However, change seems to be on the horizon for students across America.

While internships have been a successful recruitment tool for companies and organizations across the world, The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division has sought to make sure that interns be treated as if they were employees.

Students who cannot afford to not be compensated for their work can apply for Federal Grants and Work Study, but there are still students who do not qualify.

The hope is that soon internships will be regulated so all students can gain the experience necessary to further their careers while still being able to make ends meet.