Who’s working for whom?

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OPINION:

It takes money to make money. Sixty percent of students say internships are now mandatory for graduation at their colleges.

A study by Internbridge.com shows most undergraduates do not have a choice in the matter; when it comes to unpaid labor in the workforce, pay-for-placement internship companies are the ones reaping the benefits.

For example, students who enroll at Dream Careers Inc., a San Francisco-based internship agency, pay up to $13,000 for an unpaid, two-month internship with the prospect of being hired by a Fortune 500 company, according to their website.

With the economic slump, more students are looking at internships for the edge needed to get a good job after college.

But is the experience worth the expense even for those who can afford it?

The Dream Careers program includes housing, meal expenses and weekend events at the campus of your choice near the placement site. With destinations like New York City, London and Washington, D.C., it sounds more like a glorified summer vacation than a serious internship.

While the fees are steep, the minimum requirements are not. The baseline GPA to receive guaranteed internship placement is 2.0, and 2.5 for students interested in the finance program.

Other Fortune 500 companies have higher requirements. AT&T prefers a minimum 3.2 GPA for internship consideration. Some companies do not have specific GPA requirements, but most do require “outstanding academic achievement.”

Pay-for-placement internship programs disenfranchise economically challenged students from obtaining internships, while rewarding the wealthy students who are not necessarily the best candidates for the job.

As most students struggle to pay rising tuition fees, working gratis is unacceptable, much less paying to work for free.

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The situation creates a Catch-22 for students. The days of relying upon a degree for a job are vanishing and, more than ever, graduates now need both an education and experience to have even a chance at survival in the current cut-throat market.

Students must choose between working a part-time job to pay for school, or taking out more loans to gamble on an unpaid internship.

Paying for an unpaid internship is oxymoronic. Post-college success in the job market should come from hard work and experience, not how much money somebody is willing to shell out for preferred consideration for employment.


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