Allow unpaid interns to be successful

Stipends to unpaid interns would give students an advantage.

by Ronald Dixon

Today, fewer and fewer college careers are complete without an unpaid internship. In a related trend, fewer students are working chiefly because of competition with non-students, the Minnesota Daily reported last week. While this may be true, another factor to consider is greater expectations of students.

As the job market’s saturation of fresh college graduates continues to worsen, more students are likely striving for higher grades and unpaid internships. While working during college may pay the bills, a 3.8 GPA with internships relevant to the students’ desired field — not to mention fancy company names — will be more valuable in the hunt for better jobs.

Despite fewer students working, the percentage of students in the nation who work, about 45 percent, is still quite high. This is reflective of the economic realities for many young people. Students, especially those who aren’t well-off, face massive loans and crippling debt upon leaving college.

The best way to solve this problem would be to provide more opportunities for living stipends for student interns. This would close economic barriers to valuable yet unpaid internships — and hopefully shrink the wealth gap over time. It would also allow more students, regardless of socioeconomic background, to pursue opportunities outside the classroom that would enhance their college experience.

Many colleges and universities, including individual departments at the University of Minnesota, provide this funding. However, many interns don’t take advantage of these resources, and grants are often extremely limited.

To expand these opportunities, the government should grant additional funding to colleges and universities under the condition that they use the money to provide stipends to students who have been accepted to unpaid internships. A federal solution may remove the obscurity of these funds and expand access to them.

To allow students to better prepare themselves for the future, both academically and professionally, legislators should take the initiative and provide the means for students to flourish in college.