Minimum Wage Bad Idea, Says Unpaid Intern

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For a young person unfamiliar with the working world, writes Cohen, the benefits go farther: "Internships are about self-discipline, showing up on time, dressing and comporting oneself properly—conforming to the norms of the organization, not merely to the fashion of the classroom. They are about learning how to listen and observe, to be responsive and responsible."

He calls the suit brought against Charlie Rose "dumb" and the settlement "worse." Companies fearing similar litigation now will be less likely to hire interns, he argues.

Indeed, say experts who follow the internship market, that trend is already underway: While some employers have decided that the best way to defuse future legal problems is to start paying interns, others have eliminated or curtailed their internship programs.

Eric Normington is CEO of Dream Careers, a for-profit company that helps match would-be interns with jobs available. This coming summer the company expects to offer 2,000 students about 4,000 situations, some paid, some not.

"We're seeing companies deciding not to offer internships at all, rather than have to pay," he tells ABC News. "It's a significant long-term problem."

The downside, he predicts, is that "we will see a drastically reduced number of employers willing to offer an academically-based program." The upside, though, will be the elimination of programs that are genuinely exploitive and without academic merit. "If it's all about getting coffee," he says, "it's not an internship."

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