Journal of Public Management & Social Policy


Social equity is embedded in the public service values of the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA). Yet social inequity persists in the facilitation of unpaid governmental internships by some of its accredited programs. This research explores social equity, reviews the service learning pedagogical benefits of internships, explicates the contrasting U.S. legal paradigms permitting unpaid service, and discloses the prevailing pay practice for domestic internships. It then examines the governmental internship paradigm in light of model guidelines. It normatively contends unpaid governmental internships create an access barrier for prospective interns due to their associated socioeconomic opportunity costs. Beyond the normative perspective, using national evidence from paid interns across all majors, research documents (1) more early job offers, (2) more job offers, and (3) higher first position salaries for paid interns. These findings suggest paid governmental interns likely benefit from better outcomes than unpaid interns underscoring the urgency for remedial action from the NASPAA leadership. The article proposes that reconceptualizing governmental internships to a paid only standard yields more good than harm. This pivotal innovation could rectify a long-standing, critical social equity inconsistency within some NASPAA accredited programs. Institutionalizing a paid-only standard is achievable through accreditation modifications and federal reform. Additionally, the proposed national tracking of governmental interns could better inform service-learning pedagogy. Such a data set can spur research regarding paid internships as a pipeline for increasing the representation of the socioeconomically disadvantaged in governmental agencies.



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