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Interns Provide Free Labor, But Internships Are Not Always Free

This is the VOA Special English Education Report.

Many college students in the United States use their summer break to earn money in a temporary job. But more and more are working as summer interns.

Some internship programs accept students in high school.

Internships are usually unpaid, and the work might not always be the most exciting. But they offer a chance to gain experience in business, public service or some other area of interest. They can also be a chance to get to know a possible future employer. More importantly, internships can help students make sure their area of study is a good choice.

For most organizations, interns mean extra workers for little or no cost. They also get a chance to see if a student might make a good future employee. Some interns are promised a full-time job once they finish their studies.

Yet some students have no choice but to get a paying job during the summer. They have a real financial need.

Interns provide free labor, but internship programs can involve costs for travel, housing and meals.

Businesses might require interns to receive college credit for their experience. These businesses are concerned about labor laws that say workers must receive something in return for their work. So, if not money, then credits.

Many colleges and universities resist such requirements. They say students should earn credit only for school experience. Some other schools provide the credits but charge students for them.

So, for a student from a poor family, an unpaid internship just may not be possible. Economic realities like this sometimes lead to criticism of internship programs.

But some colleges and universities are offering help for students who want to be interns. Some provide scholarships to help pay for housing and meals, but they do not always give academic credits.

Brandeis University near Boston, Massachusetts, offers a summer internship class. Students pay for one college credit. They must write an essay or keep a journal of their internship.

Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, is considering a similar one-credit summer class. Associate Dean John Bader says the students would work with a professor, but would not have to pay any money.

And that's the VOA Special English Education Report, written by Nancy Steinbach. You can read transcripts and hear past reports at I’m Pat Bodnar.