Internships Becoming More Difficult To Obtain And Afford

By Staff

March 4, 2008

Despite widespread agreement that internships ultimately assist college graduates searching for jobs, many college newspapers are reporting that internships are increasingly becoming more difficult to find and harder to afford.

"Finding an internship has become like searching for a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow," writes Peter Goldschmidt in Texas' Southern Methodist University's The Daily Campus. He notes that internships are becoming scarcer as companies cut costs and student enrollment and demand increase.

"Going into the process, I turned up my nose at unpaid internships. Now I've become desperate," Goldschmidt says. He points out that more students are enrolling in summer school or looking into studying abroad simply to avoid the daunting task of finding a credible internship.

At Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington, The Whitworthian notes that while the school's internship program has not diminished, the vast majority of opportunities are unpaid, presenting a serious problem for many students.

While many companies have always offered unpaid internships, the problem is noticeably more pronounced now as more students and families struggle to make ends meet and the job market becomes more competitive.

Zach Dahmen, a Whitworth senior who initially looked for work with the university's internship listings, eventually realized he would settle for any position that offered enough pay to cover his education expenses. He now works a night position at a hotel from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.

"I needed the money," he explained. "My financial aid was cut so I definitely needed the money to pay for school and loans."

The Whitworthian also points out that internships can incur an additional expense for students: Those who take for-credit internships during the summer must pay the school for credits if they are not enrolled as full-time students during the time of the internship. At Whitworth, that can amount to as much as $1,260 for a three-credit summer internship.

In The Cornell Daily Sun, Cornell student Shaun Werbelow relates of his experience interviewing for a dream internship in Washington, D.C., only to be informed that the position was unpaid. "For me, what appeared over the phone to be an invaluable opportunity, in reality, became an impossible opportunity," Werbelow writes. "As interesting, engaging and mentally stimulating the work, I could not afford to live in Washington, D.C. for a summer without any income."

Werbelow questions the fairness of unpaid internships that are essentially only available to more affluent students who can afford to forgo summer wages. "Perhaps unpaid internships are not for everyone," he notes, "but does that really imply that they are not for those less well off?"

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