Each year, many students receive summer funding from the Lang Center and many more request summer housing to conduct an internship or community service project near campus. They do so to pursue on-campus jobs or research, or to take advantage of opportunities in the Greater Philadelphia area.
While the Lang Center was able to give out more funding this year than last year, the school as a whole still could not meet everyone’s needs. Isaiah Thomas sent an email to those who applied for summer housing saying that Swarthmore had more applications than they had expected and would likely not be able to meet everyone’s housing requests. While funding is limited and not all housing is available during the summer, we at The Phoenix believe that the college should put more resources into making sure that students, particularly those with financial need, can pursue summer opportunities both on and off-campus.
Internships and research are important for students to gain experience and figure out what they want to do with their lives after Swarthmore. Internships tend to be clustered in cities with high costs of living, like New York and Washington, D.C. This places an increased burden on students from low-income backgrounds, especially if they are not able to get summer funding. However, since Swarthmore is located so close to Philadelphia, the fifth largest city in the United States, low-income students who work with Philadelphia organizations could benefit greatly from on-campus summer housing, as the cost of living would be significantly reduced. If the college is to properly serve its low-income students, then it must do more to make sure that these students are able to take the same kinds of summer opportunities as their more privileged, affluent peers.
This could easily be addressed by making more dorms accessible for summer housing. While this will not directly help every single student, it will greatly help students on campus for the summer and those who pursue internships in the greater Philadelphia area.
Swarthmore clearly has the resources to provide more summer housing. Each summer, only one or two dorms are chosen to house all students. However, since there is a clear demand for more student housing, the school could easily accommodate this demand by increasing the number of dorms opened for summer housing. In doing so, more students would be able to take advantage of jobs and research on campus without worrying about the high cost of living in the borough of Swarthmore. In addition, students would be supported in finding internships in the and around Philadelphia, which upholds Swarthmore’s mission to provide students with opportunities that “support personal development, encourage interaction with off-campus communities, and build interpersonal and leadership skills.”
Increasing summer funding would also provide more equitable access to opportunities. The reality is that low-income students and students who live far from major metropolitan areas have the least access to internships. For many students, internships require paying for housing, food, travel, and other extraneous expenses. Given that many summer opportunities are unpaid or not paid enough to keep up with living expenses, funding from the college is necessary for opportunities to be equitable for all students.
Students should also be made aware of outside funding sources that are available to them. Scholarships, grants, and other awards should be advertised to students by departments, Career Services, and the Lang Center. By making students more aware of funding available to them, it will help the student body as a whole take advantage of all potential resources. This is an easy step the college can and should take. While the college might not be able to increase its support of students directly through more funding, it can use the resources already available on campus to increase housing options and make summer opportunities more equitable.