While participating in unpaid internships gives students the opportunity to gain an enhanced perspective on the disciplines they study, the financial burden some students face may undermine how beneficial they truly are.
Gideon Resnick, a junior at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, spoke with HuffPost Live about the school’s required residency program, in which journalism students work with a variety of prominent media outlets. However, as Resnick said, participating companies decide whether or not to pay the interns. In his case, he received only a stipend and completed his residency in New York City, known for its high cost of living. As a result, Resnick left his internship with a bank account in the negatives.
The unavoidable and unaffordable expense of an internship is sufficient reasoning for the reconsideration of the graduation requirement.
Though Medill’s three-month residency program immerses students in full-time professional experience that allows them to amplify their skills for the work force and provides school credit, its affordability should be brought to the forefront just as much as its long-term advantages for students.
Though Medill supplies approximately $900 in travel costs for the program’s interns, students are still responsible for the $15,040 cost of tuition for the term. With the accumulation of tuition, student loan debt, textbook expenses and living costs, it is not surprising students such as Resnick find the program financially stressful.
The school, however, continues to receive $1,250 for each student, a stipulation in agreement with internship law.
Likely, in response to the backlash Medill has received and with concern for the range of lawsuits associated with unpaid internships, the school began requesting internship sites to compensate students last July. Ideally, the notion of paying students at least minimum wage, as Medill requested, should be embraced.
In addition to the concern of internship compensation, some students, such as 2010 Medill graduate Alice Truong, dealt with having their residency choices abbreviated due to the cost of moving to a new city. Therefore, in addition to lacking an official requirement to pay interns, Medill’s program limits some students’ options for their residency experiences. Furthermore, the program might discourage some students from pursuing the journalism degree at Medill because of this additional cost.
Due to these perpetuating issues, Medill’s program should consider enforcing all participating companies to pay students in addition to the $1,250 paid to the school or in place of the amount. Otherwise, the school should consider discontinuing the requirement in favor of the students whose wallets must carry the unnecessary burden.
While the Medill School’s intentions for its graduation requirement makes its students more competitive for future career searches and acclimates them to invaluable work experiences, students should not be required to participate in a program that can throw them in a financial blunder with an additional expense during their educational experience.
Isabelle Cavazos is a sophomore majoring in English.