The SGA launched a program that would provide a transportation stipend for students whose majors require them to pursue an off-campus internship for credit.
The application for the funds, which will be managed by the University Career Center, was scheduled to be available as of Wednesday, said Christine Hagan, Student Government Association academic affairs vice president.
Students with unpaid internships that do not already provide a transportation stipend will be considered for monetary award through the program, Hagan said.
The career center will review applications and decide the amount of money that it will provide based on SGA-approved criteria, which includes number of hours and days each week that students are interning off campus, said SGA Speaker of the Legislature Jonathan Allen.
The program could help students who have difficulty affording transportation, said Kellan Reinikka, a sophomore enrolled in letters and sciences.
"Especially for majors that require it, if you're going to make someone do that, you should also provide them means of being able to do that, which not all students have," Reinikka said.
Hagan said the money that an individual spends to travel for an internship should be a concern for university programs that mandate the internship credit requirement.
"To get into D.C. or Arlington or wherever it is you need to go is going to be expensive," Hagan said. "So for the school to say you must spend these hours off campus, you're losing hours where you could be working or paying for all of that transportation."
The program will be helpful because college students often do not have extra money to spend on transportation, especially if they're taking out loans to pay for college, said Gisell Ramírez, a freshman enrolled in letters and sciences.
If students have an internship, then it's a good idea to reimburse the money spent on getting there, said Ramírez, who said she plans to become a journalism major; the journalism college requires students to complete an internship for credit.
The SGA has a total of $40,000 — $20,000 for this semester and $20,000 for the spring semester — to fund the stipend program. The SGA obtained funds through a surplus in the Student Activities Fee after this university underestimated the number of students that would enroll.
The SGA had planned its budget around the estimated number of students and ended up having more money to use.
Hagan and Allen said they pursued the stipend in hope to find an effective program to alleviate transportation costs for students.
The idea came after SGA members found a Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority proposal last semester to implement a transportation discount program at this university to be too expensive for students, Allen said.
Allen met with several colleges at this university, including the public health school, the public policy school and the journalism college, to request statements of support for the program. Allen also requested financial support from the colleges to make the program sustainable in the future.
Allen said requiring an internship can be valuable to students, but added that "if it's mandatory and they physically don't have the means to get off campus, then it's a little difficult, so hopefully [the stipend] addresses the issue."
The Career Center offers the Bright Futures Internship Scholarship Fund, a need-based scholarship for students pursuing unpaid summer internships with a non-profit organization or government agency, according to the Career Center's website. However, the Career Center does not offer this scholarship or a similar program during the fall and spring semesters, said Erica Ely, the internships program director at the Career Center.
"We value students having internship experience and getting real world experience as they approach graduation," Ely said. "We're happy to facilitate students especially for those taking on internships that need help traveling to them."
The application will close on November 13, and the SGA expects that students will see their monetary award posted to their student accounts by Nov. 21, said Allen.