In the next few weeks, Georgetown University students will hear back from summer internship programs. But for many students with financial need, the university’s prohibitive summer housing costs overshadow the good news of receiving an internship offer in Washington, D.C.
Georgetown charges $450.60 a week for summer housing occupied longer than seven weeks. The rate — nearly $90 greater than the average double room rate for an entire semester — is not currently subsidized for students with financial need.
The university’s exorbitant summer housing prices deter low-income students from accepting the invaluable networking and future job prospects that a D.C. internship can offer, even unpaid.
Students should not be forced to choose between advancing their careers and staying afloat financially. To promote equal access to summer opportunities, the university should provide reduced-rate summer housing for financially disadvantaged students pursuing unpaid internships.
Internships for undergraduate students are crucial for career development: These opportunities help students narrow career possibilities and provide students with professional credibility after graduation.
Though certain internships are available during the academic year, summer internships can be more attractive for students with heavy course loads or multiple extracurricular commitments during the semester. Students’ free time during summer vacation also allows them to commit to a full-time internship and develop a more extensive skillset.
While a myriad of scholarships are advertised to assist students with financial need, these scholarships are often not enough to cover the entire cost of summer housing. The School of Foreign Service Alvarez Memorial scholarship — branded as a way to assist students who would otherwise be unable to accept unpaid internships — is just $500. With Georgetown housing fees nearly nine times this amount, the scholarship is hardly enough to aid students.
Moreover, these scholarships are competitive and can only assist a handful of students. For example, the Georgetown Summer Fellows Program, which provides free housing to students pursuing an unpaid summer internship for 10 weeks, only selects 10 students. Financial need on campus, however, extends beyond 10 students.
By reducing Georgetown’s summer housing costs for financially disadvantaged students, the university could allow more students to accept unpaid internships beyond the select few who receive competitive scholarships.
Though limited paid internships are available, in most fields, unpaid internships are the norm for undergraduate students. Students are already accepting a loss by offering their work for free, and Georgetown’s prohibitive costs only exacerbate the financial difficulty.
Georgetown’s housing costs are an added burden on transportation and food for low-income students pursuing D.C. internships, according to Aleida Olvera (COL ’20), vice president of the Georgetown University Student Association.
Though off-campus housing is cheaper, these options are still not affordable. In the Georgetown neighborhood, a single room can cost over $2,000 for two months. “Housing costs should be similar to rent costs in the neighborhood,” Olvera said in an interview with The Hoya.
Prices are cheaper in neighborhoods further from the city center, but require burdensome commuting costs, according to Miranda Felton (SFS ’21), who received an offer for a summer internship in D.C.
Off-campus housing, unlike university housing, can also require deposits, disadvantaging students who do not already have money accumulated.
The lack of affordable housing in D.C. is especially concerning for students who live far from major metropolitan cities. Though internships are available in these areas, they may not match up to the student’s field of interest or be of a similar quality to opportunities available near Georgetown, according to Felton.
Low-income and first-generation students are already at a networking disadvantage; being unable to intern only exacerbates unequal access to resources. To help students take advantage of the critical career development available in unpaid internships, the university must offer reduced-rate summer housing.
The university touts its location as an asset for students to gain professional experiences on its website and admissions materials. Yet housing costs rob the Georgetown community from achieving this possibility. Georgetown must provide reduced-rate housing to maintain its promise to prospective students.
The university’s responsibility to provide its students with equal access to opportunities — including unpaid internships — does not end once summer arrives. Rather than hindering students from developing their careers, the university should actively assist them. Summer housing must be subsidized for low-income students.
The Hoya’s editorial board is composed of six students and chaired by the opinion editor. Editorials reflect only the beliefs of a majority of the board and are not representative of The Hoya or any individual member of the board.