This summer, more than 2,500 freshmen will most likely be paying the 3.2 percent hike in tuition, like last year, but not for parking. Freshmen will be eligible for free parking for the fall semester starting in July.
The freshmen free parking pilot will give access to specific parking lots and structures around campus. This pilot will be in place for all freshmen, including those living on campus.
President M. Roy Wilson plans to fund the free parking initiative himself.
Rob Kohrman, vice dean of Fiscal Affairs for School of Medicine, stated at the Student Senate meeting on May 19 that the program will only be offered to first-time freshman students.
“To qualify, the students would have to be a first time university attendee and they will have access to specific lots and structures,” he said. “They just have to opt in.”
The Dean of Students David Strauss, explained that the program will be optional:
“They are going to get communication during orientation, but they won't get it [the free parking tag] right away,” he said. “They have to opt-in in the summer online and when they do, they will get it on their OneCard.”
According to a flier sent out by the administration, the parking program is meant to assess whether free parking will cause an improvement in students’ ability to “establish the optimal class schedule and credit hours, participate in university events, organizations and activities, engage with their peers, professors and advisors,”–as well as–“practice other behaviors proven to promote success in college.”
Anthony Eid, president of the Student Senate, added, “If it’s successful we can hopefully implement it to the rest of the campus.”
“It has been something Senate has been working on it since fall last year. I think this pilot program is starting at a really good time,” Eid said. “I think it’s good and we will see how it goes. If [students] end up liking it then we can hopefully get more involved,” he said.
Donald Dudley, a graphic design major in his senior year, wishes that the free parking program would include all students.
“I guess it is slightly unfair for students who have already been here to have to continue paying for parking… a lot of schools don’t even let you have vehicles your first year,” Dudley said. “But I think it’s not so bad, at least it’s starting,– so as more classes come in maybe parking will be free for them. That’s kind of cool that at least they’re doing something to cut some costs for students, but it would be awesome if all of us got free parking.”
While free parking is what some students like Tarek Bazzi would call “a dream come true” according to him, it’s not exactly ideal.
“I think it’s bad because our capacity, 24,000 students, still have to be allocated toward other spots,” said Bazzi, prior vice president of Student Senate. “I’m trying to be optimistic. In the long run, students would just park their cars in the lots/garages, leave them there and take advantage of it. It might be too excessive for the capacity.”
Students can currently park in garages and lots for an average of $7.50 by credit card or $3.75 by OneCard. Students can purchase parking passes for garages1-8 for $287 per semester. No word on how much this would exactly be costing President Wilson, however, according to the May 19 senate meeting it would be approximately $7-8 per credit hour for each student.
While the new parking program has many hopeful for positive benefits for the freshmen, others are concerned that the new students will lose a major incentive to carpool.
“It’s very bad for the environment," said Kenneth Nash, a senior studying chemical engineering. "Now students don’t necessarily have the extra motivation to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide pollution. Besides, I think that when you’re a freshman, you don’t have too many connections, especially if you’re a commuter student, so those carpool incentives were a good way to develop friendships early on.”
“[The new parking program] would be implemented in the fall and potentially if things go well, will continue on to the winter,” Kohrman said.