Tuition rates leave half of UCI undergraduates an average of $18,000 in debt by the time they finish their degree, according to a 2012 LA Times article. When each year finds typical student debt increasing, ridiculously expensive parking permits feel like getting kicked while you’re down. Not to mention, UCI greatly expanded the size of its student body during the last admissions cycle, yet has failed to change on campus parking to accommodate for this increase.
Commuters have to drop at least $70 every month on parking, and that price only goes up if they can’t afford to pay it all in one lump sum; weekly passes cost $40, so buying several weekly passes is much more expensive than one month long pass. This fee, combined with the price of gas, is a sizable chunk of any student’s income that might have otherwise been spent on school supplies, books, or meals.
Considering how much students spend on parking at UCI, the system shouldn’t be so complicated. Commuter parking permits have specific time and zone restrictions that have to be memorized, lest you run the risk of getting a parking ticket. And more often than not, these zones are likely to run out of spaces.
After all, the best-enforced laws on campus are the parking laws.
“I don’t even know what times I can park [outside my designated zone],” said Brenda Rosas, a first-year commuter.
If a students want to ensure there’ll be a place for their car once they’ve waded through the swamp of Irvine traffic, UCI offers a solution: just pay even more. $89 “Preferred” Zone Commuter permits are yet another desperate grab for cash. If it weren’t for these specially marked spaces, the preferred parking wouldn’t be necessary in the first place. The addition of preferred spaces only limits the parking further, exacerbating the problem. The option of “preferred” parking seemingly targets low-income students who can’t afford the advantage of these pricier spots.
Residents need to get around, too. Off-campus jobs, grocery shopping somewhere more affordable than Trader Joe’s, and visiting home all necessitate transportation. But you won’t be able to do it on your own terms unless you have the disposable income to pay precisely $101 a month in addition to housing costs. Nevermind that any real apartment complex outside of UCI includes at least one parking spot with the room you pay for.
Campus Village resident Meghan McDermott explained that once, in an attempt to save money by biking to Walmart rather than shopping at University Town Center, she was late to a class. If it weren’t for the price of parking, bringing a car to college would be a more viable option and students wouldn’t have to prioritize financial stability over their education.
There must be some reason for UCI parking to remain so expensive. Perhaps there just aren’t enough spaces to go around, and the high prices are meant to dissuade some who could go without a car from bringing theirs to college with them, even though this is intrinsically unfair to lower income students since those who are financially better off don’t have to consider whether or not they really need to bring their car along.
With the revenue from these overpriced permits, UCI could expand parking. However, there haven’t been any plans to build more lots, despite the drastic increase in students admitted this year. Mesa Towers were built to make room for these new admissions, but nothing has been done about the overcrowded lots.
Whatever the reason for the excessive prices, it seems less acceptable when UCI parking is compared to that of the other UCs. We have nearly the most expensive parking permits, second only to UC San Francisco. Our parking even costs more than it does at UCLA. By comparison, UC Santa Barbara parking prices are drastically more affordable at about half of what students pay at UC Irvine. However, it seems that incomprehensible parking permit restrictions are a staple of any UC system transportation department.
All of these factors considered, it seems to me that students would have a less stressful college experience and likely more time to focus on their studies if it weren’t necessary to supplement their income and compensate for the unnecessarily high prices just to park a car.
Candice Johnston is a first year literary journalism and English major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.