The Great Intern Debate

By Allie Grasgreen

Confusion over federal guidelines regulating unpaid internships is evident in at least some career centers, where employers are posting fewer opportunities on campus job boards, counselors are under false impressions regarding the legality of such jobs, and students are unsure whether they’re appropriate.

A survey released Thursday that asked more than 400 career center officials about how the unpaid internship debate is playing out on their campuses revealed these findings and others, with the clear takeaway being that no two colleges are responding the same way.

“I don’t see this ever going away. I don’t see this ever having a standard that everyone agrees on. It’s like internships in general — there is no standard,” said Richard Bottner, founder of the research firm Intern Bridge, which conducted the survey along with Phil Gardner, director of research for the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University. “Anyone who tells you that there’s a solution is probably looking through one lens. And that’s something we try not to do.”

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