Editorial: Don’t blame it on the intern
Colleges need to do more to facilitate internships
Published: Friday, February 1, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 16:02
In the not-so-distant past, even as recent as a decade ago, many college grads could expect to find a job in their field right after graduation simply for making it through college and receiving a degree. Nowadays, things are much different.
The current state of the economy paired with the increasing level of college grads in the workforce means that it is much harder for those who have recently received a college diploma to find a full-time job. According to a report from The Associated Press last April, 53 percent of recent college grads are jobless or underemployed.
In order to separate themselves from their peers before graduation, many students are working internships while in school. Internships provide valuable experience outside of the classroom and make any résumé look more impressive to potential employers.
Those, in short, are the benefits of an internship. There are many negatives as well, depending on the internship. The majority of employers do not pay their interns, meaning that students need an alternative source of income to pay for transportation, housing, meals and other necessities, depending on the nature of the internship. And, even if they are compensated for their work, students still have to pay their respective university tuition if they want to receive credit for the internship.
A recent New York Times report detailed how 83 percent of interns surveyed in 2011 were not compensated for their work. Yet 56 percent of those same interns had to pay for the credits they received for completing their internships. The same report explained that the U.S. Department of Labor, concerned about the exploitation of interns, created a set of rules that ensured that internships for credit would involve education value and students would have to be paid for work that has “immediate advantage” for the business.
But rather than protect interns from being exploited, these rules have only forced colleges to distance themselves from the internship processes in order to avoid any liability. UNH has a disclaimer on the internship section of the University Advising and Career Center, which states that “students assume all responsibility to investigate and to become informed of all aspects of the internship.”
This creates an unfair situation for students who are paying UNH thousands of dollars to receive credits for an internship in which the university has little to no involvement. UNH is not the only college guilty of this scam, but it does not excuse them for doing nothing to alleviate the problem.
The Department of Labor also has to revise its rules to put more responsibility on employers to ensure that they cannot take advantage of their interns. Universities, meanwhile, should create more partnerships with businesses that compensate interns and don’t force them to go broke all for the sake of experience and another line on the résumé. More and more students are working internships so that they’ll have a chance in a competitive job market. If students are going to pay their university for credit hours for internships, the university has an obligation to make sure that those credit hours have educational value and do not put students in an unfair position financially. Until then, both employers and universities are guilty of taking advantage of student interns.