Last September, tucked away in a routine funding package, Congress did something to level the playing field for middle class and low-income politically minded college students across the country.
The bipartisan bill includes, for the first time, funding set aside solely for the purpose of paying congressional interns, both on the House and Senate side. The $20,000 in funding for House offices and the $50,000 for Senate offices is a leap forward for the vast majority of students who don’t have the financial independence to afford a summer or semester in D.C. without compensation.
Interning in a different city than where you go to college is always tricky as a student because, if you live in a dorm during the school year and typically live at home during the summer, you and your family are likely using the money saved in order to be financially solvent during the rest of the year. On the other hand, if you have an apartment, you’re stuck with trying to get a sublet, something that is especially difficult during the summer due to the number of people trying to do the same thing. If you don’t manage to sublet and go to another city for an internship, you’re stuck paying for two apartments— a very daunting task.
Paid Congressional internships also solve another major problem with taking unpaid internships in politics— opportunity cost. Many students work during the summer in order to make the fiscal math for the rest of the year work. Not getting paid during the summer isn’t an option for many, and, on top of all the other barriers, can make some students passions completely unattainable.
In previous years, the unpaid status quo sorted out students from modest backgrounds from the get-go, leaving most congressional internships in the reach of only wealthy students who could afford an unpaid internship, or D.C. residents— certainly not the wide tent the conservative movement and politics in general should be open to. Congress’s move to make paid internships the standard, rather than a rare exception is good for America both in terms of what it does to politics as a profession, but also allowing more people to experience our government, their government, first-hand.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.