Nothing for Money and Your Work for Free: Internships and the Marketing of Higher Education

  • Mara Einstein Queens College, CUNY
Keywords: Internships, Marketing, Branding, Corporatization, Higher Education


American universities have significantly increased their marketing expenditures over the last decade. The high cost of education, reductions in government funding, and precipitous declines in the traditional college-aged population (18-21 year olds) are some of the key factors forcing universities to be more aggressive with the promotional techniques they use to attract prospective students. In this competitive marketplace, schools promote the attributes they believe will be most compelling to high schoolers and their parents, including academics, sports, campus life, and careers. Tied into this last factor is the promotion of internship opportunities. While some of these hands-on experiences lead to jobs, there are no guarantees that attending college and engaging in an internship will translate into full-time employment. Using content analysis and auto-ethnography, I examine how universities use internships to market higher education, and argue that this is a particularly pernicious practice within the area of media studies.

Author Biography

Mara Einstein, Queens College, CUNY

Mara Einstein has been working in or writing about the media industry for more than 25 years. She is the author of Compassion, Inc.: How Corporate America Blurs the Line Between What We Buy, Who We Are and Those We Help (University of California Press 2012), which examines the growing trend of promoting and selling consumer products as a means to fund social causes and effective social change. This builds on her continuing research into the effects of consumerism on social and cultural institutions, ideas considered at length in her last book, Brands of Faith: Marketing Religion in a Commercial Age (Routledge 2007), a critique of promoting religion. She has a PhD in Media Ecology from New York University, an MBA from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern, and a BFA in theatre performance from Boston University. She is currently working on a new book entitled Black Ops Advertising: Native Advertising, Content Marketing and the Covert World of the Digital Sell (O/R Books 2016).


Interrogating Internships: Internships and Higher Education