Journalism in the Public Interest

Help Us Calculate the Cost of Unpaid Internships for Academic Credit
Calculate the cost and relative quality of unpaid internships at journalism programs across the country
by Blair Hickman
ProPublica, Oct. 2, 2013, 10:59 am

Photo: Flickr user cdsessums

As part of our investigation into the U.S. intern economy, ProPublica is taking a closer look at the role colleges and universities play in promoting unpaid internships. And we want your help calculating the academic cost of these positions.

With proper supervision, off-campus internships can be invaluable. Employers prefer to hire grads with relevant work experience, according to one recent survey. Many who’ve shared their stories with us so far have said the connections and skills they gained at their internships were far more valuable than reading a textbook.

However, as Kara Brandeisky reports, getting academic credit for an internship doesn’t necessarily make it legal. Some colleges have promised to “take great pains” to ensure students aren’t exploited. But ultimately, students have no way to compare the cost and relative quality of schools’ internship programs – and some colleges are collecting tuition for unpaid internships that don’t meet federal guidelines.

To open the door on the murky world of college internship programs, we want to create a tool that lets people compare the cost and relative quality of schools’ internship programs: How much tuition does it cost to be an unpaid intern? How much would students have made if they’d been paid? What do students say about the quality of the program – and how does it compare to similar programs at other schools?

But to do this, we need your help. We're crowd-sourcing the tuition cost of internship programs at journalism departments across the country. Our College Internships Cost Calculator will compare the cost details, and let students rate and review their experiences.

Sign up: Adopt a School

We’re looking for college newspapers, student journalists or other volunteers to help us verify intern program cost details. We will publish results, along with any stories you report as a result, in our College Internships Cost Calculator.

To sign up, click "Adopt a School" below. We'll add you to our list, and send you further instructions on the research and reporting. 

If you have any questions, email


Get Involved

This project has been archived and is no longer active. See the full internships investigation archive here.

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Though the intern economy remains opaque, dialogue about the role of interns in the labor force – and protections they deserve – is beginning to take shape.

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