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Paying to Work for Free
University of Dream Website (detail)

A detail from the website University of Dreams (summerinternships.com).

The economy’s still lousy. Unemployment’s high and higher. Starting a career is murder. And guess who’s getting the internships that so often put a foot on the ladder to success?

Well, people with money. A hot business has grown up around paying for hot internships. Unpaid internships. Mom and dad shelling out $5000, $8000, $9000 to buy a summer internship that may get junior started.

Nice, if you’ve got the money. But what about merit? What about opportunity for all?

This hour: When it’s pay-to-play in the American economy.

You can join the conversation. Tell us what you think — here on this page, on Twitter, and on Facebook.


Gerry Shih, a paid summer intern at The New York Times and author of the article “Unpaid Work, but They Pay for Privilege.”

Sara Lipka, former staff reporter for the Chronicle of Higher Education, where she covered internships and career services, among many other topics. She currently works on a farm, and blogs for The Atlantic on farming and food.

Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute. He is the principle author of the EPI’s “The State of Working America,” an analysis of the US labor market released every two years.

Lev Bayer, president and CEO of the Washington Internship Program.

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  • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

    This seems somehow related to the show you had on how it’s cheaper for Americans to go to school abroad and the reaction you got (on the phone and in comments) from people saying they couldn’t afford it while the show was about it being more affordable. To my ears that was all about the ability and inability to imagine going to school and living someplace outside the US.

    That’s a long winded way of saying that maybe this is less a money issue, more a class issue: if there were no cost associated with becoming an intern the same people could imagine this being a stepping stone to a job and the same people might not be able to imagine it.

    Of course, to do this one has to be in a financial position to work without pay for a while and that too is a class divider which no doubt this show will be about.

    Still, I think money is only one of many issues, a more important one being imagination.

  • nick

    Of course,

    This is the American way today – take care of the few at the top.

    I am a private contractor who reviews and advises screen play writers and authors. I use to get paid well enough to make a living. Today, the studios and film houses want me to do it for nothing. I am 57 and not a ‘newbie’ at this.

    We become a two tier society more and more, every day.

    Sad and it isn’t getting better, it is getting worse.


  • Putney Swope

    The school I teach at has a lot of students who are not well off. The average student works about 25 too 30 hours a week just to survive.

    I remember the show on going abroad for college. Which was about class. It was also about the authors selling books as I recall.

    This kind of stuff, were mommy and daddy pay for the kid to get into the internship is more of the same.

    There was an article in the NY Times about this woman who charges $450 per hour too consult parents on how to get their children into a private school. This seems very much the same only for older children.

  • http://workisee.tripod.com Beverley Smith

    Well the recession has led many organizations to offer the work for us for free option, and in some cases the pay us to work for us option. This is not remotely fair but it does remind us all that the phenomenon is far from new. Governments have done this with women since the dawn of time. The unpaid labor of housekeeping is just self-serving so of not social value but care of the young, sick, handicapped, elderly and dying is not just self-care but other-care. WHen governments fail to recognize it as work, when they actually punish people for ‘staying home’ to do it, the result is that not only do women have to take a salary loss for these roles, but they have to take money from savings to pay the new bills. In essence, the state is having women at home pay for the privilege of raising the nation’s young. Instead of governments valuing those who maintain the tax base of the future, they punish them. So it’s not a new phenomenon at all.

  • Putney Swope

    Beverly Smith advertising your agenda and web site is a bit tacky. Also Canada has changed it’s laws regarding women and working since the 1860′s. I went to your web site. What are you trying to say? That women had a raw deal in the 19th century? So did African Americans.
    So did Jews and the Chinese.

    Your point as it relates to this topic is what?

  • Gerald Fnord

    I find myself agreeing emphatically agreeing with the other comments so far, but not so with their tone. I think I have some perspective on this, as I grew up first poor, then upper middle class, as my father’s business prospered, and because I have kept mine eyes open since. (Note: I have never been able to afford to work for free.)

    The privileged’s making things easier for their children is universal, it is human. (If we tried to eliminate it, the job of doing so would probably give one a great deal of job security and be passed down to the holder’s children….) We shouldn’t accept it in its worst excesses—it’s criminal that Senate seats have started to become family possessions—but neither should we get all het up about it, or mock those receiving such.

    The problem is not that the well-off can afford this—often n00bs are literally worth negative salaries—but that we less well-off can’t. Simply put, we need class-based affirmative action, much as we have for higher education.

    Looking further out, we should just make sure that everyone is rich and privileged—it will possible much sooner than you probably think, and will be opposed by those wealthy base enough to enjoy their state more because others are poor. (If you think this is crazy-talk, consider that you live in a society where an overwhelming majority read, are not starving, and almost none of us are chained to a farm, all science-fictionally unlikely prospects for anyone over the last ten thousand years.)

  • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

    Gerald, I agree with you and my comment wasn’t meant to sound like I’m against people with means or imaginations taking advantage of these types of opportunities.

    In fact, I think the reason others don’t take advantage of them is less about money more about imagination.

  • bob

    This is the result of an economic policy we been following since Regan started it. When Regan talked about trickle-down and were to tell the American people we end up with this he would have lost.

    Another reason for this is the outsourcing of any job that a corporation can to maximize profit.

    Let’s be honest. The fact that a person looking for work in this country pays money up front to be allowed to work is disgusting. It’s just another example of corporations doing their thing no matter what it does to their fellow citizens.

    Thank God I’m 57 and not 27.

  • Lorelei

    This makes me so MAD!!!! All of these wealthy students and families make it IMPOSSIBLE for any student/family to get the same or similar opportunities. An internship that you PAY to do also speaks very poorly of the companies that are getting money for this.

    This is a very sad situation. I’m a filmmaker ad professor that both has interns and helps students gain them. They believe, what may be a false belief now, is that they would get the internship based on their skills, personality and perseverance.

    Wealthy people get what they want. Poor people once again are locked out of the system.

  • Gordon

    I thought we had a minimum wage law in this country. How is it that employers get away with this at all?

  • Todd

    College students who are naive enough to get suckered into such free internships will eventually reap what they sow. I hope they plan on working pro gratis indefinitely; because, that’s the only assurance they’ll have of retaining a position with the company for which they’re interning. As long as these companies can get their labor for free, the positions will ALWAYS be occupied by an intern! This is a prime example of the short-sighted mentality that pervades in America.

  • Thomas McCormick

    I spent a summer with the Washington Internship Program I felt it as very important to landing my current job.

  • Patricia

    Meritocracy is a myth.

    Gary Shih made my first point. Students who attend prestigious colleges and universities will get a closer look. So students who can afford to attend them all ready have an advantage.

    Children of famous/influential people have all ready had that privilege. I’m fairly certain that the Kennedy children have been given opportunities to “intern” in organizations because of their name. It’s always been about “who you know.” Look at Tim Russert’s son. When Tim Russert died, NBC immediately put his son in a “paid” reporting position. I cannot believe he was the best person for the job. The list goes on.
    When I was a teenager, it was common knowledge in my town that the sought-after parks & rec jobs went to the kids whose parents “knew someone” in the town government.

    Perhaps what we need are not internships, but the old-style apprenticeships which were paid for.

    This topic is getting attention only because “money” is attached. Why aren’t you talking about the children of famous/influential people who get these opportunities behind closed doors?

  • Doshi

    This trend of unpaid internships goes hand in hand with the skyrocketing cost of a college education. An 8 year old today will pay $200k for a four-year college education. The richer parents are driving up the price of education (and paying for internships) to give their precious offspring an advantage in life.

    It’s not fair but it’s life. More of the same. Internships and jobs have always been about who you know. Parents who pay for internships are the same ones screaming about the “unfairness” of affirmative action. And we wonder why there are still disparities in management ranks. We wonder why the mediocre are allowed to rise to the top. Mediocrity over meritocracy is becoming the standard.

    I would advise students of more humble means to save their pennies and use the money to start their own business. It will allow them to learn a lot more.

  • Amy P

    Who gets the internships at NPR? Are the interns chosen on the basis of merit or is it who you know?

  • Argos

    Unpaid internships, particularly in NYC, at famous architect’s offices is a common practice. Not only are designers in the architectural field unpaid, but when they are paid, we are not paid overtime. My first job out of school in 2002 was $32,000 a year salary and my average work week was 80 hours, 40/wk of which I was never compensated for. These hours are just expected, if not required. I finally found a job where I was paid for every hour I worked, but my wage was based on a min 50 hr work wk. Going over the 50 hrs was very common and I was compensated the same whether it was hour 2 or hour 68.

  • Thomas Payne

    My daughter’s a college junior and her dream position is as an intern on Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me. Can someone from NPR tell me how many digits need to be in my check to Peter Seagal?

  • Lisa

    I’ve been listening to the show and perhaps we’re missing one point … it seems to me that while it’s important, it’s not just about money but also about the age old idea of working hard. What does this say about the quality of work from these “kids” who may not necessarily need or even truly want a particular internship? If mom and dad can pay for their spot, I think they’re teaching their kids that you don’t have to work for anything in life; success will always be handed to you. Work quality and respectability will continue to spiral downward. It makes me sad. Especially for those students who truly want an internship because they are interested in a particular area of study or business. Not because you have money or the family can say “Hey, look at me, my kid is interning at the Ford Modeling Agency.”

  • Nick


  • Anonymous

    LIFE ISN’T FAIR! Get over it.

    Yeah, people with more money have better opportunities!
    Is that news to someone?

    Not worth spending an hour talking about this.

  • Jo

    This is anti-working class and one more way that wealthy students (continue to) get ahead. Paying is outrageous and the older model of just unpaid, was also out of reach for ordinary students.

    My son attended, on financial aid, an excellent area university. His wealthy roommates did summer unpaid internships (in the early 90s) while he was hauling loads at a local marina, mowing lawns and pumping gas because part of his aid package was his summer responsibility.

    In recent years, I was pleased to see that many universities were providing some funds for students to take summer internships.


  • Steve

    What’s the difference between paying for an internship and paying for a prep school?

    This is how the world works. Those who struggle and sacrifice long-term for a better life for themselves and for their children are hopefully rewarded, although there are no guarantees–not now or not ever. The world rewards those who think smart.

  • Susan

    No one has mentioned the ultimate “paid for” internship — student teaching. Young teachers are matched with experienced teachers and work within a school for up to 15 weeks. Students pay college tuition for that time which runs into thousands of dollars. Also, they are strongly encouraged not to have an outside job so they have to take out loans for tuition and living expenses.
    As a teacher, who student-taught and held down two part-time jobs, I’m baffled. Why the outrage now? Teachers are responsible for training the next generation.

  • Greg L

    Why do prestigious companies need to charge in order recruit interns? This pay for play selection process is a system for class discrimination. Also, I agree with those who said that the kids who get into the club (are already in the club) are beholden to it. This makes it less likely that these companies will get some rogue do-gooder infiltrating their ranks.

  • Peter Jensen

    Apparently I did things the old way; in highschool I competed with 20 some odd students for a job writing software – I got the job, and it felt great! I wonder how someone who pays for this “service” feels about themselves in their “accomplishment”?

  • Mari

    OK, so parents are throwing cash at corporations to take junior off their hands for awhile. How is this any different from the same people paying for day camp or a field trip to Europe?

    I’d like to know WHO gets the money. If a giant corporation is taking cash, hand over fist, to send young people on “go-fer” missions- go fer coffee, go fer printer ink, go fer the executives dry cleaning, etc.- does the same corporation write off the “expenses” for training this future worker of America? I’m betting that these corporations are double and triple dipping, bigtime, with collected fees, tax write offs and slave labor. Shameful.

  • George Gonos

    Paying exorbitant fees for “internships” is part of a much larger trend in which excessive (and legally dubious) fees are charged to workers everyday all over the country by temp and staffing agencies. The need to pay for employment, which was discredited early in the 20th century, has made a huge comeback in the deregulated labor markets we now live with. The Wagner-Peyser Act gave us a free public employment system in 1933, and universities have historically run free career placement offices. Much of this has been deliberately broken by the for-profit placement industry.
    George Gonos
    Employment Relations and Sociology
    State University of New York, Potsdam

  • Emily B

    At first I was shocked at the idea of paying for internships, but then I thought about it a little harder and realized that plenty of my former classmates payed for unpaid internships in the form of college tuition. The internships were required as part of our major, and so we were required to pay the college tuition for the credits that corresponded with the internship. Most internships were unpaid or had a small stipend. Of course in the end you have your required school credits completed and learn valuable workplace skills, so it’s worth it in the end.

  • Bill Healey

    I’m not sure i have heard it asked but i would like to know what does the middle man, the facilitator make from these pay for internship.

  • Kate

    What a scam, Lev. You are offering extra services like writing workshops to make the intern look more professional? Well, if the intern didn’t learn that by the time they finished college, that’s too bad. They should know those things before entering the professional world. These intern placement agencies are a scam.

    Thanks to the high tech manager who refused to take an intern from an agency!

  • Audrey

    My son is about to begin his 2nd paid internship next semester – with a large pr firm in dc. How did he get it? He worked for it – he has job experience in his field, used his university’s career office for services, practiced interviewing, etc. After he accepted this internship last week, we was called by 2 other pr firms in dc (including NPR) for interviews. They told him to apply the spring semester. I could never afford to pay a firm to get him an internship.

  • http://OnPoint Jeff Wetherell

    My daughter and her friend just graduated from college.

    The Friend, a Latina, was awarded in unpaid internship at the White House. However, she does receive a fellowship grant. My daughter took a job in a non-profit sector which pays decently and has benefits and starts monday. They moved into a sublet apartment yesterday. I’m extremely proud of them.

  • Aquarianus

    Paying for internships levels the playing field for those born with disadvantaged intellectual capabilities. The best and the brightest do not need to pay a fee for an internship, but those with mediocre academic records are going to be left behind without this opportunity, and that’s just not fair.

    This is a GREAT program that gives somebody with the ability to make a small investment in one’s future, but not the highest IQ, a fair chance to compete in the job market.

  • Joseph

    I think the show had more to do with the role of “facilitators” in making the connections for pay (it wasn’t clear the the company offering the internship made cash out of it). But what if the next step is going around the facilitator, and letting the company just offer the internship on eBay?

    This type of arrangement seems to just be a more overt expression of how things always worked, and I suspect that for every negative comment posted here, expect inquiries to the facilitating company to be greater by a least a factor of 100.

  • Sue Roth

    Unpaid and paid internships have been available for quite a while through most schools. Internships that are well chosen and give students experience in the workforce before they will be applying for an entry level job are invaluable.

    Here is the benefit-
    -student gets real world experience which is often very different from the theoretical experience gained from a college class
    -the business that hosts the student takes time to teach the student the ins and outs of their profession, and an inexperienced employee takes time to train

    I am very upset that this unique and usually beneficial experience is now being PAID for, and up to $9,000 dollars?
    Here are the negatives of accepting this type of situation:
    -already, the attitude has become in the workplace, let’s try and get it for free, and that will become more prominent
    -in the company I work for, when we do not have funds to hire someone, someone inevitably asks if we can get an intern. It is now to the point of let’s not budget for staff, but get interns to do the work.
    -I see interns doing manual labor and menial tasks (make sure the internship will benefit you- if it doesn’t, leave)
    -I am also a board member of a non-profit organization, who also demeans the worth of services and expertise. Lets get someone to speak for free, let’s get drinks donated, etc.
    -It is immoral to give internships to those who pay for them
    -It demeans the value of the workforce
    -Has anyone done a study of how many internships actually afford a job later? I can tell you we have never hired an intern after their internship because they are perceived as not part of the team, but as a menial laborer.
    -Internship responsibilities, intended outcome, and an outline of what is to be learned should be standardized if payment/minimum wage is not given. This form should be registered with the state, school, and reviewed at the end of the internship period. If a company has not met the requirements of the internship, they should have their right to get future internships revoked, or have to reimburse the student for the hours they worked.

  • Michael B

    Thank you for this important story. I see its relevance for a related issue–service learning in US universities and colleges.

    I am a university professor who was recruited to become a “service learning fellow” for our University’s new big push into service learning–which is just a fancy term for unpaid (but credit earning!) work by college students in community service opportunities, typically in under-served minority communities. Now some of my colleagues claim that students aren’t taking over otherwise paid jobs because these are positions that towns and cities have either cut already or which would not be filled in any case because of budget cuts, but talk about circular reasoning there! When I came in to the first meeting and expressed my own ambivalence about service learning because of its obvious downward pressures on wages in entry-level jobs and its contribution to the notion that taxpayers don’t really have to worry about cuts in services b/c some eager beaver kid from the university will come and supply that service for free– well, you should have seen people’s faces! It was like I was some kind of Communist or something! I actually had a business professor tell me he never had even heard such a perspective on service learning before.

    In the end, I am utterly convinced about the positive impacts on college students of working in service positions in needy neighborhoods, it is likely to make them more sensitive to the needs of those communities and an ability to see the people who live there as, well… regular people. It is also natural that the schools and agencies in which they serve are thrilled to have them. But I remain DEEPLY skeptical about its larger implications for the labor market and taxpayers’ who think they can just keep cutting taxes and never see any actual loss of services. Perhaps if the inner city kids didn’t have after-school activities staffed by unpaid college interns or “service-learners”, and the crime and lawlessness that ensued was not contained within those neighborhoods, but actually spilled out into their leafy suburbs, then taxpayers might actually start saying gee “we need more after school programs for kids, not less”. But we don’t and we won’t see that sort of logical reasoning if the culture of unpaid internships and service learning continue to expand.

  • Sandra

    Great show! After listening to your guests, I felt much less alone in my situation.

    In my graduate program, I have had to find internships twice, on my own initiative. As always, I received some word-of-mouth suggestions and help–but it was up to me to get myself “hired” for these free jobs.

    When my school suspended me for financial difficulties last semester, I had to find a second internship, which I managed to do. This additional year of supervised practice will be far from free for me, however.

    The school requires a two-hour supervisory course, at $906 per credit. In addition, they are charging three credit hours–nearly $3,000–for “placement.” In all, it will cost me (all fees included) over $5,000 per semester, and over $10,000 for the school year, to work for “free.”

    My supervisor gets no share of the money I am paying (unless you count half-price classes at my institution as payment). She does get my full-time, minimally supervised work. Because my grades have been good, I have passed all required state and national exams at a high level, and this is my fourth year of internship, this work will be at a high level.

    Meanwhile, I am worrying about every fluctuation in gas prices, and every bill.


  • Lon C Ponschock

    A similar topic on volunteerism was recently done on our state NPR network.

    This prompted me to recall an anthology called (aptly) “Boob Jubilee: the cultural politics of the new economy” edited by by Thomas Frank and Dave Mulcahey of The Baffler.

    Look for the section called Interns Built The Pyramids.

  • http://www.internshipconnection.com Dr. Carole Jabbawy

    As the founder of Internship Connection in Boston and New York City, we match high school, Gap Year and college students to internships directly related to their academic interests. Both parents and students tell us over and over again that experiencing an internship as early as high school yields so many benefits.

    Think about how many students switch their college majors. Career experience can help a student identify or eliminate a career interest, actually saving time and money. Other students can explore a special talent or strength that they would never been able to experience in an academic setting.

    Not every program costs $9,000. Our counselors who have Masters Degrees in education and counseling offer the same services as the pricey companies. We provide career counseling, resume and interview prep and establish an internship for $2,000. For anyone who has spent the weeks and months trying to secure an internship, they would certainly understand the time-intensive process involved. Money well-spent for a jump-start to a career!

    Dr.Carole Jabbawy
    Founder and Director
    Internship Connection
    Boston and New York

  • Mary Claire Carroll

    I am upset by the comment that students who had done internships whether paid or unpaid, had an advantage over those who did not even if they went to a top school or were high academic achievers. I understand why that happens but that means colleges and businesses should make every effort to ensure that all students,regardless of financial status, have access to internships. My son went to a top U.S liberal arts college with financial aid. While classmates did internships during the summer and winter breaks, he worked. In fact he worked throughout his college career to help pay for his education. There was no time for internships.

  • David Harden

    Forgive me if this has already been discussed, but doesn’t this encourage “helicopter parents” or class separation?

  • twenty-niner

    “Wealthy people get what they want. Poor people once again are locked out of the system.”

    This system is what it is, but the good news is that with hard work and some street smarts, one can bypass the “system” altogether. I know many from working-class backgrounds (myself included) who’ve created their own businesses and wealth from scratch. It’s not as easy as you might think reading a book like “Rich Dad Poor Dad”, at least is wasn’t for me, but it can be done.

    What worries me the most is the sense of futility and pre-destiny that I see in the American conversation, the sense that if you’re not in the Ivy-League-Wall-Street pipeline, you’ll be relegated to just scraping by. Reading about great entrepreneurs from the turn of 20th century like Edison, Westinghouse, Carnegie, etc., it seems there was a sense that America could accomplish anything with shear will power, and lead the world doing it. Somewhere along the way, we’ve lost that fire.

  • Dustin

    I’m 25 years old. I was fortunate enough to attend Vassar College, which has a program students can apply to for summer internship funding. You have to demonstrate that you will do community work for a group that cannot afford to pay interns. I have no doubt that had I not been giving that funding for a volunteer project the summer before my senior year, I would not have had the resume to get my first job after college in community activism. That opportunity has allowed me to advance in my career and nearly double my income in just three years. This issue isn’t just paid or unpaid internships. It’s educational programs that prioritize real world experience. It’s developing a culture that appreciates and supports entry-level work. I was lucky. I worked hard but I also landed on opportunities I could just as easily not have. I’m contributing to the economy and developing myself as an active, vital young adult. I don’t know that I’d be in that position had I not been given a hand.

  • http://tainted-angel-1.livejournal.com/ Edward DuBois

    I’ve got to say this, because it’s staring humanity right in the face. We all expect equality, and everyone to have the same chance at anything as the next person, and the only way to increase those chances is to work and gain merit.

    But there’s a funny thing about that. A woman in your show said she’d never pay for an internship; she’d earn it the hard way.But the sad fact is that until you’re put in that situation, you don’t know what the heck you’d do. nobody does. It’s easy to expect the best of yourself, but logical to assume the worst.

    I can bet a hundred bucks that if she was put into the position, she’d fork over the money if she had it just to gain the advantage over someone who was better then her. Anybody would. It’s too easy to pass up. We can say “Oh, I’d never do that at all!” That one man even made an oath on radio (which i know a few thousand dollars in his hands could break easily.)

    It’s just that simple, honesty, more often than not, is a fool’s dream and greed is the reality. Go bad a few hundred years to the source of the saying “Cream de la cream” and that was the norm. (I hope someone realizes I’m talking about France pre-Revolution.) History repeats itself, folks. That’s another sad fact.

  • Ben

    I noticed one of the negative callers was a manager from a High Tech company, I’m also in the high Tech industry.

    There are very few students studying Engineering, Computer Science, etc.. at the moment. These programs are difficult and I guess are not as glamorous. But no one is paying for an unpaid internship in these fields, Interns are paid well.

    So if you’re competing for an unpaid internship consider whether you just studied the wrong thing. Not everyone can work in the White House or in TV or Radio or advertising.

  • Craig

    Another point of these free internships is the unequal playing field it stes for the companies competition. In Architecture Design firms its common for the most successful and wealthiest firms pay the least for staff and nothing for their interns. This goes beyond internships in Architecture where Starchitect firms have many 1st or 2nd year employees paid nothing – they are non-employees in fact. They often have to bring their own supplies just to get that firm on their resume. Ironically most of these firms are created by independently wealthy people in first place.

  • anne

    i’ve had interns over many financial cycles over the last 20 years.

    and today, i can tell you: i can’t afford to train an intern – even one who pays. we just don’t have the resources to spend that much time coaching someone in basic office skills and our corporate culture, and to have them leave in 3 months. so not worth it to me.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/profile?viewProfile=&key=40917150&locale=en_US&trk=tab_pro Tom Spencer

    Great Topic…

    I am a 24 yr. old white male in an unpaid internship for a young roadable aircraft engineering company called Terrafugia in the northern subs of the Boston area. While I am not “paying” for the internship directly, my parents and I are paying for my relocation and living expenses. (an old crummy studio apt. for 1500+ a month, good grief).

    I am a 08’ aero engineering grad from Western Michigan University and have had one engineering job in the oil industry and two aero engineering jobs in the past year. Many new hires like myself were laid off from our jobs two due to… and I quote my letters “economic turmoil”, “canceled orders”, or “unforeseen budget cuts”… take your pick. This was one the only options I had. I have to gain experience somehow, right?

    I never stop thanking my lucky stars that my parents have supported me emotionally and agreed to help finance on my venture. They both grew up very poor environment, on today’s standards, and are now considered to be apart of the upper middle class. I think I speak for a lot of Y generationer’s when I say, “we are indebted to them to the Nth degree”. I would not be satisfied with myself if I could not give back, I owe them so much.

    It’s important to get as much experience in whatever field one chooses to pursue. It takes a lot of persistence, some luck, and I guess as this topic points out… some money.

  • Mary

    The students from who are among the “best and brightest” who are chosen for “Teach for America” have the luxury of taking this low-paying job which will “pay off” later as a great item on the resume. Where we live in St. Louis, we see many affluent students at Washington University who have the luxury of going to college year-round rather than having to work flipping burgers during the summer months. I have even seen many high school students who start their “resume building” activities while still in high school, choosing to(i.e., having the privilege of) take classes at one of the nearby universities instead of working a menial job to earn some money for college.

    It is interesting to hear people who feel that it is unfair for someone to work a job for free just to get experience. Years ago, we used to call that volunteering. That was often a good way to get experience. I know that I have done volunteer work even while holding down full time empolyment. Even while hardly being able to make ends meet.

    What gives anyone the right to condemn a student who is motivated enough to learn that she/he is willing to work for free to get that learning? Enough already.

  • Shannon

    I went to a public university in a tech program (MIS, for those of you who know what that is), and there were absolutely no internships that the college could get for us, paid or unpaid. I nearly went to the Washington Internship program, but couldn’t afford to work for free and didn’t want to waste my application fee to turn down an unpaid internship. Finally, in my last year of college, a tech internship showed up… only it was basically a local business owner trying to hire a $60,000 web site admin/network admin for free. True, it would have been great experience for whoever got it, but the sad fact was that anyone that would have been qualified for that person’s internship could have gone out and gotten that $60,000+ job. Why should we be required to work for nothing ever? I certainly didn’t have any classmates that could afford it.

  • Frank the Underemployed Professional

    That college graduates cannot find work in their fields and thus have to go so far as pay money (!!!) for internships in the hopes of maintaining the economic value of their expensive degrees is a huge tragedy that must be affecting millions of Americans. Imagine how you would feel if you had spent years in college and accumulated nearly $100,000 in student loan debt while also being essentially unemployable as a result of having been unable to find work in your field after graduation. Many professionals may be in a worse situation since they are liable to have over $100,000 in loans with few career prospects.

    College and Professional degrees are not worth what they used to be worth forty years ago when many people’s perceptions of the value of a college education were formed. Today, just about everyone who has the ability (intellectual and financial) to do so goes to college. The end result is that our society has significantly overproduced people with college educations, resulting in too many qualified people for too few knowledge-based jobs. We have an oversupply of people in just about every field and a great many people are either unemployed or underemployed-involuntarily-out-of-field. We have too many Ph.D. scientists. We have too many computer programmers. We have too many people in IT. We have too many MBAs. We have two or three times as many attorneys as our economy can support and we even have an oversupply of patent lawyers (science or engineering degree + law degree–imagine that). (Many scientists fled the career graveyard of science for law school in the hopes of striking it rich as patent lawyers and now we have an oversupply of them.)

    Sadly, many of these graduates will lose the value of their college educations if they cannot find work in their fields shortly after they graduate. Employers in their fields will regard them as complete losers, rendering them unemployable in their fields. In the meantime employers in other fields will also regard them as losers since they perceive that everyone who works in the fields they trained for are financially successful and that they thus must be either incompetent, unmotivated, or simply overqualified. While they may lose the value of their college education, their student loans will continue to haunt and taunt them and their families may regard them as losers. Imagine the huge toll it would take on your self esteem. Sadly, these student loans cannot be discharged in bankruptcy, leaving many of these people to suffer having to live in a debtors’ prison without walls. The urge to commit suicide must be great.

    Our society is suffering from an EDUCATION ARMS RACE where people try to outdo one another, fighting for the smaller number of jobs available (relative to the number of qualified people with degrees) by continuing on to accumulate expensive and time-consuming advanced degrees. Hence, we have too many lawyers, too many MBAs, too many humanities PhD’s, too many Ph.D. scientists, too many people with Masters degrees, etc. The result of this destructive arms race is a gigantic amount of unused education which constitutes economic waste in our society. Sadly, this tremendous squandering of societal wealth has gone completely unnoticed. The problem is that the parties that benefit from people obtaining education (universities, professors, lenders, and even politicians who sell it to the masses as a solution to our economic problems since people gobble it up) do not suffer negative consequences from unused education, so there isn’t much of a feedback loop to encourage them to stop expanding and selling their product. (Universities and colleges are for-profit businesses; a great many stakeholders have an interest in perpetuating the education myth and over-educating society. It may also reduce unemployment some since students aren’t really in the labor pool.)

    Consequently, I am in favor of significantly reducing the number of the nation’s colleges and universities, and graduate and professional school program capacities. Where is the economic value in spending tens of thousands of dollars to train people for non-existent job positions and/or to produce a large oversupply of qualified practitioners? How does it benefit our society to create a large class of indebted, often highly educated and intelligent, significantly underemployed (often involuntarily-out-of-field) angry, bitter people?

    How did we get into this situation? Why do so many people feel compelled to invest in college when degrees have become devalued?

    Basically, our nation’s economy has been failing to provide a first world, solid American middle class standard of living for a great many people for decades. People thus went to college in the hopes of being able to secure solid middle class careers and lifestyles. As formerly middle class manufacturing jobs were sent overseas or were filled by immigrant labor (both legal and illegal), more and more people flooded into the colleges and/or urged their children to go to college.

    Today, college-education-requiring knowledge-based jobs are also being sent overseas or filled by foreigners on H-1B and L-1 visas. (“My job was bombed by the H-1B.”) Thus, in addition to the dramatic increase of people who are going to college in the hopes of escaping the rising tide of unemployment, underemployment, job insecurity, and low wages that have affected manufacturing and blue collar jobs, increasing the amount of competition for limited jobs in knowledge-based fields, now knowledge-based jobs, too, are susceptible to an economic force called GLOBAL LABOR ARBITRAGE. b Why hire Americans to work knowledge-based jobs when they can be done for far lower wages in India or in America by foreigners on H-1B and L-1 visas?

    Over the past several decades our society, our politicians, our intellectuals, and our media pundits have sold higher education to Americans as a solution to our nation’s economic problems as though it were an opiate of the masses. By selling the American people on higher education, they could avoid having to acknowledge the unpalatable problems caused by global labor arbitrage. This way they don’t need to contradict free market dogma by advocating protectionist restrictions on international trade such as tariffs and a zero dollar trade deficit policy. This way they won’t have to risk being called racists or xenophobes for opposing mass immigration (for economic reasons) and for trying to put an end to illegal immigration and to dramatically decreasing the amounts of legal immigration. By selling the American sheeple on higher education, they can continue to please the wealthy by allowing them to hire foreigners on H-1B and L-1 visas for lower wages than what a marketplace of only Americans would require.

    In short, our nation’s problem is not merely that too many people are going to college to train for non-existent job positions, but also that we’ve sent the jobs overseas or filled them with immigrants or foreigners on work visas. The loss of manufacturing jobs to overseas labor drove Americans into the colleges and universities and now knowledge-based jobs too are susceptible to global labor arbitrage.

    Today, young people and Americans in general are being inundated with the notion that college education is the solution to our nation’s economic problems. Turn on the radio or TV and listen to economic commentators and politicians or open your newspaper’s op-ed page and you will find pundits pontificating about how our nation needs a more highly skilled workforce (for imaginary and non-existent job positions) and how more and better education is the solution to our nation’s problems. By trying to brainwash Americans into believing that they are simply unskilled and/or inferior, the politicians, the media, the intellectuals, and the wealthy who crave low-paid slave labor can hope that the American people will blame themselves rather than aim their ire at the politicians and the upper classes.

    We need to forcefully tell our politicians and intellectuals to abandon political correctness and to acknowledge and to address our nation’s real substantive economic problems. Until we end our nation’s economic merger with the third world, America will continue to transform itself into an overpopulated, impoverished third world country via the economic force of global labor arbitrage.

    It’s a shame that Americans aren’t taught to understand all of that in college.

  • http://safari Shelley Robbins

    Parents THINK that they are helping their kids…. they are not. It is important that kids venture out for themselves, be innovative, move to another country and learn that they actually are resourceful. Having mommy and daddy intervene will only make kids more dependent creatures eve if they land the job of their dreams.
    Parents…. have faith that your kids can do it!

  • Grad Student

    Loved the show. I agree with most that is being said.
    But not everyone who attends an expensive school is rich. I will be attending NYU and am taking out loans. I will have to pay them off. My friends and I are all doing the same. We worked after our first four years of schooling to save for grad school. I can’t get married any time soon. But you have to sacrifice if you want that special job. Shouldn’t you?

  • Putney Swope

    Loved the show. I agree with most that is being said.
    But not everyone who attends an expensive school is rich. I will be attending NYU and am taking out loans. I will have to pay them off. My friends and I are all doing the same. We worked after our first four years of schooling to save for grad school. I can’t get married any time soon. But you have to sacrifice if you want that special job. Shouldn’t you?
    Posted by Grad Student, on August 21st, 2009 at 8:00 pm EDT

    In short no you shouldn’t. Education like most everything else in this country has become a commodity.

    Why should you start out your life with over 100k in debt? If your going to NYU on loans only it will be more.

    In the last 30 to 40 years everything in this country is controlled by the bottom line and profits. Not that money should not be made, it should, but the balance of that and the civic duties of a society are really out of balance.

    My mother, who is approaching 80 went to the City College of New York for free. She received an excellent education and went on too teach and work in Special Ed in the New York Public schools. She also married and planed a family. Try that career track today, it’s almost impossible.

    My late father also was product of the city college system and was a vet so his expense for Dental school was covered. He also went on too have good career for over 40 years.

    Education should be free in the best of worlds. It should at least be affordable too all. The current student loan rip off is the next big financial mess that will need some serious fixing.

  • joseph

    I would appreciate your strategy of using youths to solve todays problems and I know that everyone will feel concerned and take part in political issues in Africa.

Aug 21, 2014
In this November 2012, file photo, posted on the website freejamesfoley.org, shows American journalist James Foley while covering the civil war in Aleppo, Syria. In a horrifying act of revenge for U.S. airstrikes in northern Iraq, militants with the Islamic State extremist group have beheaded Foley — and are threatening to kill another hostage, U.S. officials say. (AP)

An American is beheaded. We’ll look at the ferocity of ISIS, and what to do about it.

Aug 21, 2014
Jen Joyce, a community manager for the Uber rideshare service, works on a laptop before a meeting of the Seattle City Council, Monday, March 17, 2014, at City Hall in Seattle. (AP)

We’ll look at workers trying to live and make a living in the age of TaskRabbit and computer-driven work schedules.

Aug 20, 2014
In this Oct. 21, 2013 file photo, a monarch butterfly lands on a confetti lantana plant in San Antonio. A half-century ago Monarch butterflies, tired, hungry and bursting to lay eggs, found plenty of nourishment flying across Texas. Native white-flowering balls of antelope milkweed covered grasslands, growing alongside nectar-filled wildflowers. But now, these orange-and-black winged butterflies find mostly buildings, manicured lawns and toxic, pesticide-filled plants. (AP)

This year’s monarch butterfly migration is the smallest ever recorded. We’ll ask why. It’s a big story. Plus: how climate change is creating new hybridized species.

Aug 20, 2014
A man holds his hands up in the street after a standoff with police Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, during a protest for Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo. (AP)

A deep read on Ferguson, Missouri and what we’re seeing about race, class, hope and fear in America.

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