Every summer, it’s a deluge. Thousands of eager students descend on Washington, D.C. to intern in Congress. It’s the perfect opportunity to see first-hand how the legislative process works, a good way to get a foot in the door in politics and often gives ambitious young people a leg up in their careers.
Some of those ambitious young people end up working for members of Oregon’s congressional delegation, all of whom talk incessantly about the need to prepare students for the future, support equality of opportunity and encourage the creation of good jobs.
So what are they paying their interns?
Zero. Zip. Not one thin dime. Not one red cent.
Money Magazine estimates it will cost an intern a minimum of $5300 to spend a summer interning away from home when you factor in air travel, rent, transportation, clothes and food.
This means a good number of young people simply can’t afford to intern in Congress.
One result? Low-income Oregonians having to choose between a career enhancing internship for an Oregon member of Congress and a summer job with a house painting company may have little choice if they need to make money.
That means students from well-off families can afford to take a career-building unpaid internship, but not the kid from an average family struggling to deal with potentially crippling college loan debt. That perpetuates inequality.
The situation has become so acute that some former Congressional interns have even formed an organization, Pay Our Interns, to advocate for paid internships. “A student’s socioeconomic status should not be a barrier to getting real-world work experience,” the group says.
Here’s a chance for Greg Walden, the lone Republican in Oregon’s congressional delegation, to get things rolling and show some leadership by instituting a paid internship program.
So do the right thing, folks. Pay your interns. You’ll all be the better for it.