If anything can be said about the employment market in the United States, it's the fact that employers love cheap labor, but they love free labor even more. I believe that college students are exploited when they take unpaid internships. I honestly don't believe it is fair to expect college students to work for free, rather it be an internship or not.
The draw of internships is that they are supposed to "pay" in learned experience from working with professionals in a field. However, these internships rarely lead to a paid position, and may not necessarily help lead to a job. It would be nice if they would at least pay students the minimum wage, so that they not only gain experience, but also can help afford expenses associated with their education. That way, more students might be able to pursue internships.
Yes, college students are being exploited when they take unpaid internships, because they often times undertake work that should be done by entry-level or paid employees. Often, companies will use interns, rather than entry-level employees as a cost-cutting measure. This is unfair to people and college graduates who have a hard enough time finding a job the way it is.
I do not believe in unpaid internships. I believe someone who is old enough to be in and attend college, deserves a pay check if they supply work. I believe the internship programs are created to take advantage of the bright young minds in our country without paying them properly.
Unpaid internships are part of the educational process. Students earn college credit instead of working in a traditional classroom. If done well, future employers can call supervisors of the student to find out how that pupil did during his/her time at the internship. The word "internship" doesn't mean "slave" it means "life experience" beyond classroom hallways. If someone feels they are being exploited, the EEOC is there to take your complaint in the United States.