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Internships Are Not a Privilege

New York Times

Talent is equally distributed, but opportunity is not. And while many Americans believe fervently and faithfully in expanding opportunity, America’s internship-industrial complex does just the opposite.

As the summer internship season gets into full swing, consider, for instance, how a plum internship may alter a young person’s career trajectory. While some students take a summer job in food service to pay the bills, others can afford to accept unpaid jobs at high-profile organizations, setting them on a more lucrative path. [...]

While some nonprofits may be unable to pay their interns — even though they depend on their contributions of energy and know-how — the government can help turn unpaid positions into paid opportunities for those at risk of getting left behind.

A few years ago, researchers at the Economic Policy Institute and Demos proposed using existing student aid programs — including Federal Work-Study and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid — to facilitate internship grants for low-income students. Their proposed Student Opportunity Program would provide funding equal to $3,500 for three-month grants and $7,000 for six-month grants to students who couldn’t afford to work without compensation.