Link to Forbes Article by Natalie Sportelli
Graduates of the class of 2014 were recently handed the most expensive sheet of paper they will ever own—a college diploma. Along with earning their degrees, college students today are expected to graduate with work experience on their resumes, primed and ready for the job market. Undergrads can find resources to offset the cost of their college education, including financial aid and student loans, in order to work towards their diplomas. But, where can students find the capital to fund the work experience needed to qualify for a job after school gets out?
Undergrads lucky enough to land paid internships can use their paychecks to cover the costs associated with taking the job, including food and rent if they need to relocate from home to a different city. Conversely, students who accept unpaid or underpaid internships must find some means of financing the cost of taking the job—who pays for these unpaid internships?
According to data from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), nearly two-thirds of graduates from the class of 2013 had internship experience on their resumes when they entered the real world. Of the 63.2% of seniors who had been hired as undergrads, 47.8% had taken part in unpaid internships.
Unless students find some kind of external funding source, they are looking at paying out of pocket to cover the price tag of unpaid work experience. Students may choose to work on the side or ask their families for a loan in order to afford to take the job. But, these options may not be available for interns working full-time who cannot juggle a second job or those whose families cannot afford the additional expenses.
Students seeking funding for their summer job need not go far to find it. Colleges and universities have started gearing their career services programs towards helping students cover the costs of their unpaid or underpaid internships. Many universities have information about how to finance unpaid internships on their career services websites, highlighting career or major-specific scholarships and grants offered through the institution.
ROI all around
Summer internship funding for students, sponsored through their college or university, is a win for both the student and the higher education institution because the student can afford to take an unpaid internship that will help his or her career prospects, and the college can showcase its ability to prepare its undergrads for the job market to prospective students.
Elite higher education institutions, including Colgate University, Duke University, and Tufts University offer internship grants, funded by alumni and/or donations, directly through their centers for career services. Eligible students complete application forms or conduct interviews and, if approved, the office allocates money to the applicants. Some applications include caveats like a threshold for student GPA or proof of a formal internship offer, while others allow students to apply for funding before beginning their job hunt.
Getting your tuition’s worth
Prospective students may now have another factor to consider while deciding between colleges: how will this institution not only give me a first-class education, but how will it also literally enable me to get a job.
Universities that are leading the trend towards funding summer internships may soon see their investment pay off in increased applications from high school students seeking to find a college that will not only get them ready for the real world, but also get them through the door of their first job.