The starving college kid, the kid that chose to attend college, will probably drown in debt before birthday No. 21.
It’s the kid who wanted a better future, bright and full of opportunities, no matter the single, skinny numbers on the bank account.
The starving college kid is the one who finally gets an internship, after so many rejections. Finally, the kid gets to build a resumé and connections. Maybe, this is the start of a solid, if not glorious, future.
Then, the kid realizes there’s still no food – other than a few science projects, in the refrigerator. Still no money, the bills are stacking up and dinner is a peanut butter sandwich. Or noodles. Afterall, the internship is unpaid.
This is the reality of many college kids. It’s a national issue that no one seems to notice, and it’s legal.
In 2016, the Guardian reported that the U.S. had about 1.5 million internships. Nearly half of those were unpaid. But at least they have those professional connections, right?
A study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers says that internships help secure a job after graduation, but students with paid internship were more likely to receive that job offer. The study found that around 63 percent of students with paid internships had at least one job offer. Meanwhile, only 37 percent of students who fell for the unpaid internship trick had the same outcome.
When did having an internship mean skipping meals, paying rent late or not having enough gas money to visit family? Or better yet, not having a career after college?
College kids aren’t just starving because tuition, but because they are willing to take anything to gain experience.
It is true, some majors require a certain number of internship hours. However, in order to receive credit from the university, the intern often has to pay tuition. So, a summer internship could turn into something rather pricy.
At WVU, tuition is a little over $8,000 a year. Room and board are extra. Fees, too. Paid or unpaid interns can expect to put in around 40 hours a week. With West Virginia’s minimum wage at $8.75, an eager student can work part-time along with their unpaid internship and pull about 30 hours. In a month, that’s about $1,050 – hardly a sustainable income.
Despite working two jobs – one paid, one not – that money doesn’t cover the cost of next semester’s tuition. When considering gas, rent and food, that income is a piddling.
Still, our government considers unpaid internships as lawful. Weird.
So, maybe, if that starving college kid is lucky and is able to realize a future that’s bright and full of endless opportunities. Who knows? Afterall, it is possible to grow a professional network and land a starting position.
Until then, the work will be unpaid, and no one will bat an eye.
It’s normal, don’t get me wrong. Sometimes, though, things that are considered “normal” aren’t exactly the best. In the meantime, the bills are still stacking up.
— Hannah Morgan, a native of Wyoming County, is attending WVU in pursuit of a career in journalism. Her email is email@example.com.