Internships, while always a hot topic for college students, has risen to prominence in the news cycle as of late. In early 2018, the Department of Labor changed their policy surrounding unpaid internships in for-profit companies. More recently, congressional funds were set aside for the 2019 fiscal year to allow paid internships in the House and Senate. Just last week, incoming freshman congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pledged to pay her interns $15 per hour.
Ignoring the controversy surrounding the frequently discussed $15 per hour figure, Ocasio-Cortez and many others have jumped into the paid internship discussion and raised significant questions about the ethics of companies and the government not paying their interns.
With claims that unpaid internships compensate these workers in experience, the clear question is: is the experience enough? I would argue that it is not. Further, the disadvantages posed by unpaid internships far outweigh the so-called benefits. I would venture to argue that both the companies and the interns derive benefit from paid internships.
First, a few fast facts about the current practices surrounding internships:
51% of Senate Republicans pay their interns as opposed to 32% of Senate Democrats, per a 2017 congressional report from advocacy group Pay Our Interns.
The same report notes that the trend is far more dismal in the House. 8% of House Republicans offer compensated internships, while just over 3.5% do the same.
A 2013 study found that nearly half of all internships are unpaid, the majority of those in governmental and nonprofit sectors.
Internships can potentially cost around $6,000 (specifically for out-of-state congressional interns).