Internships are supposed to open doors. But what happens when they are only accessible to those who can afford to work for free?
Maxwell Love, president of the United States Student Association, and other student advocacy groups worry that the answer is a decline in the socioeconomic and racial representation of the nation's interns.
An inability to take an internship because it doesn't pay is an issue that Love says his group hears about frequently.
"You can't bring people to a city like Washington, D.C. or New York or San Francisco," he said, "where a lot of internships are, and not pay them."
"Right now, we don't know how many unpaid interns there are across the country, where they're working or what communities they come from," Jennifer Wang, policy director for Young Invincibles, said in a statement. "That's a big concern, especially because we could be leaving many young low-income people behind. We know that internships are often critical to launching careers, and so we're worried about whether the people who need internships the most are getting them."
Their worries have only increased in the last week. A new court ruling could pave the way for more unpaid internships and, opponents argue, leave students of color on the outside of this door to opportunity.
"We know that internships are often critical to launching careers, and so we're worried about whether the people who need internships the most are getting them." --Maxwell Love, president, United States Student Association
A federal Appeals Court recently ruled that companies may legally use unpaid interns if they benefit from the experience, a serious departure from a lower court's decision that movie studio Fox Searchlight Pictures had erred when it failed to classify unpaid interns as employees.