After the Internship Fair rolled through the University a few weeks ago, it would seem that every student is in “job search frenzy” mode, pursuing that perfect internship for the upcoming summer. But with keen competition and strict requirements to obtain these increasingly elite positions, it’s becoming almost impossible for many students to get them. Of course, you could turn your luck around by following the new internship trend: buying them.

According to “Do You Want an Internship? It’ll Cost You?”, a Jan. 28 article published in The Wall Street Journal, more and more parents are paying for guaranteed internships for their kids. One internship company, University of Dreams, will charge a family between $5,000 to $9,500 for placement in an eight-week internship in fields like sports marketing and public relations. Other organizations, like Brill Street & Co., will place a student in a paid internship position in return for a percentage of a student’s paycheck. If that isn’t shocking enough, another company, Charitybuzz.com, allows parents and students to bid online on internships. Wonder how much they go for? Well, they auctioned off one-week internship programs at a music production company for $12,000. These examples are just a handful of programs now available to students.

What is most troubling about this new practice is the possibility that it will widen the separation between socioeconomic classes. As stated in The Wall Street Journal article, this method may increase “the divide between the haves and have-nots by giving students from more affluent families an advantage.” It may be that only a small portion of the student population participates in these programs. Nevertheless, the students who come from a better economic background should not have the upperhand when they go out into the job market just because their families were willing and able to pay a large sum for an internship.

With the economy in a slump and unemployment rates increasing on a daily basis, it is clear that most families cannot afford this expense. When families are tightening up on expenditures, shelling out a large amount of money for a guaranteed internship would most likely be the first luxury to go. If this practice continues, employers will lose students who are extremely qualified but cannot afford the payment. Internships should be based on outstanding credentials and academic success, not whether or not you are economically fortunate.

Furthermore, if this method of employment becomes popular and successful for one company, this could increase the odds that other companies will adopt a similar hiring procedure. This would mean that additional students would be ignored because they cannot afford the program. Besides increasing the gap between socioeconomic classes, this practice could harm these companies because they become dependent upon internship companies to do their work for them. This could reduce the pool of talented individuals working at these firms, because the most capable and deserving candidates won’t necessarily be able to apply anymore.

Since when do companies insist on being paid for hiring interns? Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Economic times are tough, but that shouldn’t result in having to pay third-party companies for a job. Instead, expecting interns to work without pay should be enough. Clearly, there are many benefits to an internship, but parents shouldn’t have to pay a price for the lessons learned.

Laura Veith is an LSA sophomore.

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