The argument over the fairness of unpaid internships is moot. However exploitative unpaid internships are, their existence has now become an unchangeable feature of our job market. While unpaid internships are not without their benefits, it is a real problem when interns are forced to pay hundreds of dollars in order to receive academic credit instead of being paid for their hard work.
Unpaid internships are sometimes a necessary steppingstone on the way to finding work after college. While not all students choose to or can afford to participate in unpaid internships, the enormous fees associated with receiving credit for unpaid internships are something which must be emphasized in the argument over their fairness.
In order to legally justify not paying interns, many companies require their interns to receive course credit for their work. At Geneseo, the cost of receiving one credit for a summer internship is $273.76 for a student living in New York State and $666.76 for a student living out of state. Should a student decide to receive more than a single credit through an internship, this fee is multiplied for each additional credit––up to 15 credits. This could potentially add up to a total payment of $4,106 for a student living in New York in exchange for working for free.
Like most universities, the Office of the Dean at Geneseo treats paying for summer internship credit the same as it would for taking a summer course. Students who choose to take summer classes usually make this choice to comply with the timing of their graduation. Unpaid interns, on the other hand, may not have chosen to pay the high expenses associated with receiving academic credit for their work, had they not been forced to do so.
Clearly, there is a huge difference between paying hundreds of dollars to take a course and paying hundreds of dollars to work for free.
An obvious solution to this problem would be to decrease the incredibly enormous costs affiliated with receiving credit for summer internships. While I understand that there are some absolutely necessary fees associated with the transfer of credits for unpaid internships, I do not believe that these fees need to be as high as they are.
By not paying people for the work they do, unpaid internships are corrupt by definition. Geneseo should not add further insult to injury by charging students such incredibly high prices to receive credit for their unpaid work. Geneseo should show greater sympathy for students participating in unpaid internships who devote weeks––even months––into building their resume.
The following months will see many students applying for unpaid internships, many of which will require their interns to pay for academic credit in exchange for their work. Other campuses such as George Washington University have led petitions against the high financial costs that their schools require students to pay to receive credit for internships.
It surprises me that our student body hasn’t led similar protests––the students of Geneseo have shown how much power they can have in bringing attention to national and global political issues. I would love to see this campus stand for issues which directly affect their own futures.