Editorial: Unpaid internships should not cost students so much

UnpaidinternshipcomicA specter is haunting Baylor — the specter of unemployment.

It looms like a great shadow on the edge of every Baylor student’s thoughts.

What happens if I can’t find a job after graduation?

How will I pay my student loans off?

How do I maintain the lifestyle I’ve become accustomed to?

To quote one overused saying of the 2010s: With the state of the economy and all, these are fair questions.

They are also fair questions considering the cost of the university that is supposed to be preparing us to answer them.

And the fact is, no matter how much a Baylor degree works, simply having a degree these days doesn’t cut it for most jobs. Employers aren’t looking for well-rounded people who have great amounts of untapped potential who only need a little training in the specifics of their job before diving in headfirst.

Those sorts of people are too expensive.

Employers want someone with experience. Someone they don’t have to work on or spend any more money on.

At least, that’s what it feels like.

It feels like no matter how well you did in school, or how naturally you take to your chosen field, none of that matters.

What matters is how much experience you have. People won’t hire you if you don’t have a boatload of internships tucked under your belt. Some internships won’t even hire you unless you already have the experience you’re trying to gain by applying to that internship.

And when you finally land an internship, there’s not a huge chance you’re going to get paid for it. You’re going to work all week like you already have a job, but for no pay and you have to grin and bear it because you need that internship to get a real job in the future.

Compulsory work for no pay sounds an awful lot like an institution we abolished about 150 years ago.

Granted, it’s not all that bad.

While the real world is full of sharks trying to take a bite out of your long-fought catch, occasionally you can make it to shore with it.

Internships are useful tools for learning how the real world operates. Some internships are even paid positions. Some quickly turn into paid positions.

They can help you make connections, learn the trade, find your path in life and decide which one to take.

But for a lot of us, our work as interns will go unpaid and unnoticed.

The only way that they could make it worse is if somebody made us pay to have the internships, right?

Right, and someone does.

For an internship to count at Baylor, it has to count as hours, and all hours (until you pass 12) cost money.

That means that if you’re a senior or super-senior who is only taking a few hours, an unpaid internship literally costs you money.

To continue the fishing analogy, it’s as if the owner of the fish market demands that you pay him for the fish you caught before you sell it at his market.

We know how the system between the students and the university works. Baylor provides the education and credit, we pay for it. The whole class-credit-for-money thing does us well in other situations, but every now and then, we’re going to need a break on the price.

It would be understandable to pay a fee for the internship if the university actually provided any service for the money. As it stands, however, to receive a credit that Baylor has little-to-nothing to do with providing, we are forced to pay full price for those hours.

Granted, we have all agreed to pay for a Baylor education, and the Baylor name means something to employers.

The issue is the more than 14,000 other people getting a Baylor education right now, and the thousands of others in the job market already with the Baylor name and the same qualifications.

A large part of what’s going to distinguish us from the masses is the number and quality of our internships.

So, Baylor, we just need a little break. Let us pay a little less or not at all for our internship hours.

We promise we’ll make it up to you.

When we don’t have to worry about paying those fees to you, we will have more to pay for our bills and rent. That means that we won’t have to have a full-time job and an internship on top of classes.

That means we can focus more on impressing our professors and the people at our internships. We can move further up, faster.

Then we can come back and repay you for letting us not pay our fees those few months.