IDK the story, but I got paid twice what I was making in retail when I got my first internship, and I was on the low end. It isn’t “buy a house in 2023” money. But it certainly helped with college costs.
I’ve seen the other side too. Engineer fresh out of college can be a crap shoot. And they often take a long time to get spun up. If you can “recruit” them for $25/hr while they are still in college, they are more likely to join you for a good rate when they graduate and hit the ground running. Plus, engineering interns often get a lot of stuff done, because they are sort of on an extended job interview.
I went to an all engineering school and I remember a comedian coming to our college and making jokes about free intern labor. We all wanted to tell him, but couldn’t.