College to Congress (C2C) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a more inclusive and effective Congress by empowering the next generation of public servants. We seek a democracy that truly represents and reflects the people that it serves and provides the foundations for a more collaborative and effective government. C2C creates pathways for high-achieving, low-income college juniors, seniors, and recent graduates to intern in Congress.
Internships on Capitol Hill have long been viewed as the province of the rich, or at least those who could afford to spend a semester or summer without getting paid. A nonprofit civic education group took the lead in changing that with a paid internship program started three years ago, and this summer Congress itself is doing more to pay for its collegiate help than ever before.
Paying more interns is seen as a small but serious step toward improving how Congress functions, because there's a strong expectation the place will work better if it's staffed by a more economically as well as ethnically broad-based group of people.
College to Congress aims to bring more diversity to the intern pool by giving low-income students opportunities to work for members of both parties. The 18 students chosen for this summer have all their expenses related to housing, travel, food and professional clothing paid for—more than $26,000 each.
The House has finalized plans for taxpayer-paid internships on Capitol Hill. It's a symbolic watershed for efforts to enhance the long-term functionality of Congress, because there's widespread belief the legislative branch will work better if more people who aren't rich take jobs there.
Congress appropriated $9 million for paying House interns this year, enough for each of the 435 members to allocate $20,000 in stipends so college or graduate school students of modest means can afford the enormous opportunity for Washington networking and public service experience. Until now, the Hill intern pool has been overwhelmingly the province of people who could afford to spend a semester or a summer working form free although some House and Senate offices have dipped into their regular budgets to pay interns.
"Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle finally have the insight they need to open up Capitol Hill internships to all students, regardless of their family's income, and remove the extreme financial barriers that stand in the way," said Audrey Henson, the founder of College to Congress, a non-profit that provides stipends so Pell Grant-eligible students can work for Hill offices of both parties.