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Colleges pay for business interns: Promoting the 'sleaze' factor?

Posting in Education

Are colleges that pay students to undertake unpaid work promoting a "sleaze factor" in business?

In the wake of the recession, unpaid internships have been met with criticism. Federal laws allow students to undertake free work as long as the employer derives no "immediate advantage" and the process is educational, but students and rights group argue that the practice is tantamount to violating labor laws.

Some colleges, however, are stepping in to assist students with living costs when an employer will not, or cannot, pay -- at both for and non-profit institutions.

General stipends vary from $1,000-$3,000 per placement. The University of Richmond, for example, gives students $2,400-$4,000 for up to 10 weeks of work, whereas Defiance College covers half of minimum-wage earnings for up to 10 hours a week, or about $38.50 a week. Hamilton College stipends reach roughly $2,400.

Although colleges aren't happy to pay, officers say that students need the experience to gain permanent positions. However, Ross Perlin, author of Intern Nation, argues that by offering wages, colleges may actually be "supporting an illegal internship, at an employer who can very much afford to pay."

In addition, Perlin argues the recession has increased the "sleaze" factor among employers. In tough economic times, even if the firm can afford to pay staff, being granted free help for work they need completed will not encourage businesses to give students a better deal.

The courts seem to agree. Last week, a judge ruled that Fox Searchlight Pictures violated labor laws by not paying two production interns working on the set of "Black Swan."

Read More: Wall Street Journal

Image credit: Flickr

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— By on June 20, 2013, 3:33 AM PST

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure