A New York judge’s decision that a firm was engaging in unfair business practices by failing to pay interns for work has started a nationwide discussion on the practice.

The University of Arizona’s Casey Knox shares her analysis in The Arizona Daily Wildcat:

If anyone has ever said finding a job is easy, know that they lie. We all want “good jobs.” In fact, it’s been hard-wired into our brains for at least four years, if not more. All we used to have to need was college degree that says we know what we’re doing. Now we need prior experience to show we know what we’re doing.

Now, more than ever, employment results from former experience, shaped entirely by internships. According to a recent Forbes article, a 2012 survey conducted by Internships.com polled that “Sixty-nine percent of companies with 100 or more employees offered full-time jobs to their interns in 2012.”-So let’s say you do find that incredible internship that you know will lead you right to your dream job. Now let’s say it’s unpaid. Do you take it? Can you afford it?

Standing alone, juggling a part-time job and a full-time academic career is a struggle. Attempting to add a full-time, unpaid internship to an already heavy workload deems itself almost suicidal.

…This year, a student survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers determined that over 60 percent of paid interns received at least one job offer, compared to the 37 percent of students who worked unpaid internship positions and received no job offer. Shockingly, just over 35 percent of students who held no internship in their academic career received at least one job offer. The slight difference in these two percentages is just a representation of the staggering reality of the economic struggle that many students face within today’s job market.

We aren’t idiots. If we’re doing almost the same amount of work as an employee, we’re going to want money. And sometimes, the pros of the internship never outweigh the cons because students just can’t afford to work without pay.

Students are discovering that they literally can’t afford the experience and that should raise a red-flag to employers, that a change needs to happen. If internships are what it takes to get a job, but we can’t afford it, where does that leave us? Companies everywhere know exactly what’s happening with the economy so perhaps this case will help employees reevaluate their programs and see if they could begin paying interns. Internships may lead to jobs but if we can’t even accept an internship, our career-driven futures are looking incredibly bleak.