Should students have to pay for an unpaid internship?

Experienced gained at an internship provides with the expectations of the real world. (Stockfresh)

Experienced gained at an internship provides with the expectations of the real world. (Stockfresh)

Free coffee and creamer are only two of the wonderful perks to the frugal lifestyle as an unpaid intern. Well, depending on the employer.

Aside from the coffee, internships are great gateways to other work opportunities in the professional world. Internships can turn into a career or even just further along your knowledge in the field.

Though the salary for busy days in an office carrying out grunt work is often nothing, working for free to gain experience is well worth the devoted time and stress.

Prices vary depending on which school the student is attending. Yes, to gain school credit for an internship, price per unit still applies. Saddleback College is no exception.

The good news is that Saddleback charges community college rates per unit, so it’s less than through universities. The price per regular class unit is $46. For a three-unit accredited unpaid internship this would cost a student $138.

You could say that $138 is a steal compared to the $600-$1500 price placed on accredited internships charged by four-year universities.

It is appropriate to charge students to work for free if the student is provided the essentials to succeed in his or her internship. College is an institution needing to remain in business-and this means charging for provided services.

By paying the relatively small fee of $138, an intern will be provided the same safety and security they receive in school through the Saddleback Cooperative Work Experience (CWE) program. This ensures the intern will be treated fairly by the employer, not overworked, given meaningful duties (not just brewing fresh coffee), receive graded credit, and given one on one instruction by a working professional.

It’s a small price to pay for real-life professional work experience.

Jonathan Anson, a 25-year-old journalism major, stresses that he thinks paying a fee for school credit is acceptable.

“It’s a very different experience, because I’m in a professional environment,” Jonathan said. “As long as the program is designed to be like a regular college class I think the school is justified to charge.”

A breakdown of hours needed as an intern through the CWE program:

Paid Internship:

1 CWE unit: 75 hours

2 CWE units: 150 hours

3 CWE units: 225 hours

4 CWE units: 300 hours


Unpaid Internship:

1 CWE unit: 60 hours

2 CWE units: 120 hours

3 CWE units: 180 hours

4 CWE units: 240 hours


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