Unpaid internships aren’t cheap — they’re actually really expensive

By Postie Editors

Most Oakland University students are required to take an internship at some point in their college career.

Though there are a select few paid internships, there are a lot of unpaid ones.

According to a 2008 National Association of Colleges and Employees survey, 50 percent of graduating students had participated in internships during their undergraduate studies.

The Fair Labor Standards Act states there are six criteria that must be applied when determining whether or not for-profit companies can hire interns without paying them, including “receiving training that is similar to what they would learn in an educational environment” and “the employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.”

But we’re curious as to how many internships actually fulfill those expectations.

On Feb. 1, an unpaid intern for Harper Bazaar did something bazaar for most interns. She filed a lawsuit against the Hearst Corp. — their parent company — for failing to pay minimum and overtime wages during her internship and for failing to adhere to the FLSA criteria.

That intern wasn’t the first one to sue her internship program, though. There are currently two other high-profile lawsuits under attack — one for a group of intern’s work on “The Black Swan” movie and the other for an intern’s responsibilities for the “Charlie Rose” show.

Having gone through unfortunate internships ourselves, we completely support these intern’s decisions to sue and we hope they start a larger movement with it — maybe even making unpaid internships extinct.

Internships aren’t cheap — especially if they’re unpaid — and employers are infamous for expecting you to devote more than 40 hours a week to the job.

While we don’t have a problem with working and we appreciate the experiences we have, we do have a problem with all of the other factors that go into it.

For example, journalism students are required to complete an internship before graduation. The internships usually require you to not only transport yourself to the location, but will sometimes send you out on the field to report — all while paying $1,449 for four credits of tuition and receiving no payment in return.

Let’s face it, most college students are poor or rely heavily on other jobs to cover their living expenses. How are we supposed to balance working and school while doing an internship that demands more than 40 hours of our time without any compensation?

Fortunately for us, some companies have recently started offering paid internships as opposed to the unpaid ones, but at a smaller amount. They’re scared of facing lawsuits regarding compensation, as they should be.

Internships are one of the pivotal points of a résumé, but at this point, we’re not sure employers realize how much we’re actually losing from them.

The staff editorial is written weekly by members of The Oakland Post’s editorial board.