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Internship Controversies, part 1

May 24, 2010

Towards the end of the semester, there was a lot of heated discussion within academic internship circles about labor laws, paid vs. unpaid internships, and college credit. And why should you find this important? Because it was on The Colbert Report and that MUST mean it’s a relevant issue!

So, what’s happened?

1) EPI issued a proposal to use student aid funds to pay students for government and nonprofit internships because students without resources have a very hard time interning without pay. But that’s what it is: a proposal. There’s no guarantee that Congress would take up the charge.

2) The US Department of Labor issued Fact Sheet #71 clarifying internship criteria which allows internships to be unpaid under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). This applies to for-profit employers, as it has always been legal for people to volunteer with nonprofits and with the government. The purpose is to make sure that private companies don’t use unpaid interns in the place of regular employees. The worst offenders are clerical internships where interns aren’t learning and the company is using free labor to do tasks that should be paid.

3) There have been a number of articles in the New York Times, Chronicle of Higher Ed, and on television (which, ironically, doesn’t pay) discussing the value and the abuse of unpaid internships.

4) More employers within certain industries (especially broadcasting and financial services) are requiring students to earn academic credit in an effort to be in compliance with FLSA, resulting in the extra burden to students of not only not earning money for an internship, but also having to pay for credits (up to $1300 per credit here at AU).

What does that mean to you? Check back later in part 2 of  “Internship Controversies.”

Photo by oldmaison

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One Comment leave one →
  1. jmoon89 permalink
    May 24, 2010 6:14 pm

    What a great article! I’m so glad that you’re posting this since I, like many other students at AU, took an internship where you learn absolutely nothing and should be paid for the work you do. I think it’s very unfortunate that in difficult economic times, students get desperate for any internships that they just take an offer for internships that seem unproductive. I hope that more companies realize that abusing unpaid internships undermines their success (http://vaultcareers.wordpress.com/2010/04/06/how-abuse-of-interns-undercuts-company-success). Great job with this post!

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