How the student loan debt crisis affects democracy
In this May 17, 2018, file photo, new graduates line up before the start of the Bergen Community College commencement at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. There’s no single policy or action that will alleviate America’s $1.74 trillion student loan debt crisis while simultaneously preventing students from taking on unaffordable amounts of future debt. Higher education financing experts are divided on the exact combination of solutions, but all agree it will require a multipronged approach. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

If you’ve attend college, you were probably told by a teacher or academic advisor about the importance of internships.

As we continue to level up in our careers and look at the economic landscape the last decade, it’s hard to imagine how young folks survived going to school, working to make ends meet, all while pushing to graduate.

The topic of unpaid internships is an ethical debate. Some believe that no one deserves to work for free and should be compensated for time and work, while others believe the experience will be the return on the investment.

Either way here are some pros and cons to unpaid internships.



This gives you the opportunity to connect with people directly in your industry. Not only do you have access to professionals, you can find a mentor, or even find some guidance on how to navigate the job search.


If you have an internship, it’s in your best interest to check if it qualifies for college credit. In order for you to graduate, some colleges or universities require you to complete a certain amount of credit.


The biggest advantage for an intern is the experience in the workplace. Something that reading books can’t teach you. You are able to tap into the real world experience needed to excel at the job. It will help with your resume and your portfolio for when you are looking for a job.



Higher education is expensive. Many need to find employment to compensate for the lack of or no pay these internships offer. At times, these internship are located outside where you live. That would require you pay for expenses like transportation, gas, or incurring costs like renting an apartment to be close to the internship. This also impacts the diversity in the workplace because most people who have to resort to making such decisions are young people of color.


A study conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) found that 66.4 percent of graduates who had a paid internship received a job offer while just 43.7 percent of unpaid interns were offered a job. It’s common for interns to experience staff dumping menial office work on them, especially if it’s unpaid.


Recent research by the Strada Education Network found having a paid internship as an undergraduate is linked with a predicted increase in annual wages of $3,096 just one year after graduation. Unpaid internships, practicums and cooperative learning aren’t associated with higher earnings post-graduation, the study reports. Need I say more.

What do you think? The Defender would like to hear from you.

Laura Onyeneho

I cover Houston's education system as it relates to the Black community for the Defender as a Report for America corps member. I'm a multimedia journalist and have reported on social, cultural, lifestyle,...