In last Monday's report on the growing popularity of unpaid internships, The Herald cited an increasingly competitive job market and a depressed economy as two major causes. For students, an internship can provide an opportunity to explore a field or career, gain practical work experience, network with professionals and apply knowledge gained at Brown in a new context. But not everyone can afford to take an unpaid internship and forgo the chance to make money during the summer. Internships also impose costs, especially if the intern must arrange his or her own housing and transportation.
This is where the Brown Internship Award Program comes in. BIAP provides $2,500 in funding for students to take unpaid summer internships. Its sister award, formerly known as the Aided Internship Award Program and now named the Summer Earnings Waiver, eliminates up to $2,800 of the summer contribution for students on financial aid. The awards are funded by private donations — gifts from parents, alums, faculty and companies — and Brown's endowment.
The Herald noted that last year, the number of students applying for BIAP awards increased by 30 percent to 235. Given the economic climate and the growing popularity of unpaid internships, we imagine this number will only rise. However, despite elevated demand for both internships and financial assistance, the supply of awards will decrease this year. Citing funding issues, the Career Development Center has estimated that they will only be able to fund about 40 students this summer, compared to 50 last year. Fortunately, the number of available Summer Earnings Waivers will remain constant at 25.
We understand that times are tough, but we believe that the BIAP program is too important to scale down. For this reason, we are appealing to alums, parents and companies who might be looking for a way to give back to the University. Endowing a BIAP award is a great way to connect with students, and help students explore their interests and get a head start in their careers. Individuals, families and companies currently endow general BIAP awards, as well as specific awards for internships related to the arts, labor relations and politics. There are many opportunities for expansion. We urge potential donors to contact the Career Development Center, which is responsible for overseeing the awards.
In addition to easing financial burdens, we believe that BIAP can increase the quality of an internship. Financial support can legitimize the internship in the eyes of the employer, and may even lead to students being given more responsibility. Further, having a supervisor connect with Brown — even just at application time and after the internship has finished — will push employers to think about the intern experience both generally and in the specific case of the Brown student currently employed.
In an ideal world, companies and organizations would be able to pay student interns for the work they do. But since that is not the case, we appreciate that the CDC can pick up some of the slack. Ultimately, the main problem facing BIAP now is that demand is up and supply is down. If you're reading this and looking for a way to give back to Brown, please consider the BIAP program.
Editorials are written by The Herald's editorial page board. Send comments to email@example.com.