How much to be exploited?

In December, Newsweek started a trend when it raised the issue of paying for internships (The Price of Success, December 26, 2007). I had asked when we’d hit rock bottom and apparently this time has come.

How much would you pay for a career-making internship? $500? $2,000? Try $6,000.

Working for free is expensive enough, and now this. It’s one step further to make unfair internships more elitists. As Sarah Kiliff puts it:

Meritocracy isn’t dead, but it may be losing out to a handful of internship placement services that promise career-enhancing opportunities-for a price.

Two other articles have raised the issue. In an article for the Washington Square News (Want a dream internship? Pay up, February 6, 2008), Lisa Euker quotes Trudy Stensfeild, the executive director of the Wasserman Center for Career Development (linked to NYU), who gets it right: “It is completely unfair to charge students money for internships” As freshman Michelle Surjaputra points out: “People should pay you for working and helping out, definitely not vice versa.”

Thankfully, it seems to raise eyebrows in student medias and be against the principles of career centers, as the second article comes from Boston College. In the BC Herald (Buying Internships: Trend on the Rise, February 7, 2008), Matthew DeLuca quotes Theresa Harrigan, director of the BC Career Center: “We [at the Career Center] would never recommend that a student pay to get an internship.”

The saddest thing is that getting an un(der)paid internship is unfair in the first place. Now, it’s been taken a step further and one should be grateful not to have to pay for it. These companies operate in full light of day. How much more will it take to realize that the job market is exploiting a certain category of workers?

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