NPR ran a story yesterday about college students who pay up to $9000 for summer internships. To be fair, they aren’t paying Conde Nast or Goldman Sachs or Cleveland Clinic. They are paying a company called University of Dreams that also deals with the logistics of the internship:
CEO and founder Eric Lochtefeld says the money is mostly about logistics. Students might find something on their own in New York City, for example, but, Lochtefeld says, “They’re still going to have to find a landlord in Manhattan that’s willing to rent to a college student. They’re still going to have to pay for their subway passes and all of their meals. We have students who are coming from China to New York, and you know how difficult it would be to plan your own logistics at age 21?”
Oy. Yes, logistics are complicated for people my age. I’ve been known to lose keys or forget to pay bills. But part of the point of an internship is supposed to be learning how to, you know, grow up a little bit. At college it makes sense that you eat in a dining hall or live in dorms for a while. It gives you a chance to focus on academics and all the other college-y stuff. But if you want that kind of care when you are working nine to five as an intern, then you fail. Sorry.
The unpaid internship a disturbing enough phenomenon on its own: it requires tremendous privilege to be able to work for free all summer, you don’t necessarily learn anything, they don’t prepare you for the real world. (I wrote an op-ed about this in the Oberlin Review a few years ago.) Then imagine paying someone to make that privileged experience happen for you! That makes me a little sick. In the interest of full disclosure I will admit that I have done a fair number of internships, though almost all of them have paid me.
Anyway. It you want to read a very different kind of article about college-age folks, check out this piece by Gershom Gorenberg on his blog and also in The American Prospect. It’s a really powerful meditation on his son joining the Israeli Army.