Costs of Unpaid Work
Editorial

One of the great attributes of Georgetown is its proximity to Washington, D.C., a city filled with diversity and opportunity. Many students find employment opportunities over the summer in forms of internships with consulting firms, U.S. senators and nonprofits to name a few, before returning to campus for full-time academic work in the fall.

After students finish overcoming the rigorous academic challenges posed by the normal academic year, summer internships provide valuable experience for our student body and provide individuals with exposure to fields they want to pursue as full-time careers in the future. Yet there is a particular issue when it comes to such internships: many of them are unpaid.

Every year, according to statistics published by The New York Times and The Atlantic, an estimated 500,000 to 1 million interns are unpaid in their positions. It is safe to assume some individuals can afford the time they invest into such positions and will gain the experience they deem necessary to further their life goals.

But many cannot afford to work without pay. Certainly there are members of this community who wish to further their pursuits and attain relevant experience in fields ranging from nonprofits to finance to consulting and anything in between.

What is more, there currently lacks a national movement among most Americans to change the status quo of unpaid internships, many of which, according to former United States Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, are not in compliance with federal standards for unpaid work and are therefore illegal.

If Georgetown wishes to foster students’ career interests and professional development, there should be renewed efforts to assist as many students as possible who wish to work in Washington, D.C., over the summer while they intern.

This could range from providing less expensive summer housing on campus, establishing scholarships to cover for varying expenses or even providing stipends to students in place of wages they should receive from their place of employment. Perhaps organizations like the Georgetown University Student Association can spearhead efforts to increase potential scholarships for students over the summer.

In an ideal scenario, students would not have to worry over the costs they may or may not be able to cover while participating in an unpaid internship during the summer. Until that reality changes, Georgetown can do its part to assist the needs of students when they break from academic challenges and move to professional ones.

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