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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Interns shouldn’t pay to be unpaid

    From coffee runs to making copies, internships can sometimes involve unfavorable tasks. If you couple these seemingly frivolous responsibilities with the likelihood of working long hours for free, then voluntary internships sound irrational.

    The New York Times recently proposed the question of, “Do unpaid internships exploit college students?” in its Room for Debate section online. Thousands of students have weighed in on the heated topic, offering stories ranging from job offers to lawsuits.

    The notion of working for free can be unappetizing, but internships are now just as necessary as a student’s degree for getting a job. If you’re currently in college just focusing on your studies, then unfortunately you’re not doing enough.

    A degree once opened doors for college graduates, and now a graduate is lucky to get through one door with one. Employers want to see more, they want to see experience, they want to see work ethic. At first this might seem unfair, but there’s a great chance you’ll learn even more through unpaid internships than you will in the classroom.

    Susan Miller-Pinhey, the marketing and special events senior coordinator at UA Career Services says whether paid or unpaid, internships are worthwhile.

    “One of the most important aspects of internships is receiving any kind of career related experience,” Miller-Pinhey said. “It’s important to employers to see how you perform in the workforce.”

    Through internships, students can mature, learn about their field of interest, possibly change said field, add weight to their resumes and make connections. But the benefits don’t necessarily outweigh the hard reality of not getting paid.

    As a result of various lawsuits, many employers were scared into not offering internships unless students were compensated with something tangible, like college credits.

    Many colleges and universities, like the UA, now have internship programs, where students can earn college credits for participating in unpaid internships. Although, if students aren’t on scholarship, then they’re technically paying for their unpaid work. It’s one hell of an oxymoron, but considering how vital internships have become for a student’s success, are they justifiable expenses?

    Political science junior Chloe Steadman says this system isn’t fair for all students.

    “Unpaid internships seem to contradict the American capitalist belief of equal employment opportunities, and the idea that everyone has a fair chance to succeed regardless of their financial status,” Steadman said. “This is due to the fact that less wealthy students, or students who don’t have the luxury of being financially dependent on their parents, can’t afford to accept an unpaid internship if they’re supporting themselves through school.”

    Steadman is right. Many students can’t afford the time or money to participate in unpaid internships, hindering their employment opportunities after they graduate. That’s why college and university programs should get with the times.

    If a student is able to earn an internship and it’s unpaid and requires the student to receive credits as compensation, then the school should waive the tuition on those credits. Students shouldn’t have to pay for their unpaid internship.

    — Kelly Hultgren is a junior studying journalism and communication. She can be reached at or on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions.

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