Even Worse Than Working for Free

New Yorker writer and new Columbia Journalism School dean Steve Coll in 2011.

Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Getty Images

Here’s some crucial context for the “working for free” debate as Steve Coll takes over as the new dean of Columbia Journalism School: “Tuition and living expenses for the one-year Masters of Science is estimated to cost $83,884, including $58,008 in tuition and fees, for the 2013-2014 academic year.”

Now what people tell me is that if you didn’t go to a fancy college and don’t have great connections in the industry, attending an elite journalism school program can be worth it for that reason. But this is a very expensive form of networking with most of the money seemingly spent on things that have only a tenuous relationship to the actual value proposition for the student. It seems like rather than working for a year at an enormously negative salary, a lot of people would benefit from more opportunities to work for free if that would let them meet people and get a chance to show off their work.