The University of Wisconsin-Madison received more that $350,000 in grant money that will go to providing $10-an-hour wages for students on financial aid who want to intern at a local business or non-profit.
A survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that graduates who did paid internships were almost twice as likely to land a job compared to those with unpaid internships.
“When you volunteer for something, or you’re doing it for no money, you don’t place value on it,” said DeVon Wilson, director of the Center for Academic Excellence at UW-Madison.
“As someone who majored in psychology as an undergraduate, most of those internship opportunities are unpaid. So if you want to get exposure in a field and if you’re a low income student, you can’t afford to not get paid,” said Wilson, reflecting on his own college experience.
The funding is provided through a grant from the Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation. UW-Madison is one of more than 30 schools in the Midwest to receive funding from the corporation.
Juniors and seniors who qualify for financial aid are the only students eligible to participate. Jen Schoepke, director of strategic diversity planning, research and communication in the Center for Academic Excellence, said the university plays the role of matchmaker when assigning students to internships.
“We’re looking not only at what students want to do but what skills they want to develop and we’re looking at the employers,” she said.
Schoepke and her coworkers are tasked with finding internships that align with the goals of both the student and the organization.
The grant will run through 2018 and is expected to create more than 200 internship positions for UW-Madison students.