For commuter students, having affordable transportation is not just a convenience – it’s a necessity.
Of the total student population at UCLA, around 25 percent of all students – undergraduate and graduate alike – commute to campus. Many commuter students do so to cut down on costs, usually by living outside of pricey Westwood.
Unfortunately, parking on UCLA’s campus is outrageously unaffordable, and continues to constitute a significant, unwarranted financial burden for these students. In order to retain students who have to commute to the university, UCLA should lower student parking prices below the rates that professional staff have to pay.
With commuter parking passes costing $231 a quarter, full-time students will spend roughly $700 a year to park on campus. Assuming a four-year graduation rate, the total cost amounts to $2,800 for parking over the course of an undergraduate education.
Currently, students pay as much for parking as faculty or staff. That fact alone is ridiculous – students are already paying tuition, while faculty and staff are getting paid to come to campus.
Moreover, students who may only come to campus a couple days a week are faced with high pay-by-space prices, in which students can pay to park for a couple of hours, rather than buy a costly pass.
The problem with these is that pay spaces are few and far between, cropping up in small sections in Parking Structures 2, 3, 4, 5, 8 and Sunset Village, as well as Lot 11 and behind the UCLA School of Law. A day pass can cost anywhere from $12-20, depending on the lot, and students must pay for a whole day if they’re staying longer than two hours. While this cost is comparable to other universities, a day pass for UC Berkeley students is $10 – it’s still too high.
As one of her office’s main platforms, Heather Rosen, the Undergraduate Students Association Council financial support commissioner, has been working alongside UCLA’s Transportation and Parking Services to set up a transportation-based scholarship fund for students. The newly created fund allocates ten $100 scholarships for the year for commuter students.
While that money is well-intentioned and helps commuter students handle the costs of parking, it’s also a drop in the bucket compared to yearly parking fees. One hundred dollars a year comes out to about 14.5 percent of the total cost of parking for one year – a helpful boost, but not enough to seriously make a dent in a students’ overall transportation costs, even putting aside the price of gas.
When the scholarship application closed last week, 425 students had applied. With so many students applying and so few receiving support, the burden is greater than what the scholarship has to offer.
But it should be made clear that the responsibility for making parking fees manageable does not lie with Rosen, nor with USAC as a whole; it lies with UCLA Transportation and Parking.
Reasonably priced transportation is one essential component to keeping retention rates high. UCLA owes its students access, whether that’s in the classroom or the driveway.