Opinion: Universities Shouldn’t Charge for Parking Permits

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The parking map for the '23-'24 school year that is provided by UNC Parking Services.

The University of Northern Colorado opts to charge students, faculty and visitors for parking. Despite the thousands of dollars that tuition costs each year, this makes it difficult to justify the extra charge just to be able to go to class. It is up to the discretion of the university to charge for parking or not.

According to the parking services website, the money received from parking permits and daily passes is used for maintenance, construction, enforcement and administrative support. Parking services also says that it is a state statute that student fees, tuition funds and tax revenue are not allowed to be used to pay for parking at UNC. With UNC having a self-maintaining parking program, they can charge students, faculty and visitors to park.

Although universities like to say that they are charging parking fees to help maintain parking lots, is it necessary to charge hundreds of dollars each year for a parking pass? Over the past four years, I have rarely noticed drastic construction on any of the lots when I drive through.

One way that I can see the money collected from parking permits being used is the new Passport app that UNC has begun using. The app allows people to pay for a pass from their phones, which is a small advancement. The typical pay-to-park stations are very congested, chaotic and a safety hazard sometimes. Considering I have seen lines of cars waiting that cause traffic to pile up to purchase a parking pass at a pay-to-park station. 

Parking services sends out mass emails when there are home football games. UNC asks anyone to remove their vehicle from the Y-Lot to make spots for visitors. I feel that students and faculty shouldn’t have to move their vehicles to a different lot for the convenience of visitors. Y-Lot is considered a commuter parking area and is less expensive than other passes. Y-Lot costs $198 for an annual parking permit.

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Visitors are charged $2 for 1.5 hours and visitors must purchase the permit from a pay-to-park station located in most of the student parking lots. A standard annual pass for students to purchase is $314. Faculty and staff parking permits start at $198 and increase depending on the type of pass. Faculty and staff do have an option to pay for the parking permit monthly, but students do not have that option. There is also an optional $20 permit for anyone who parks or rides their bike on campus as a form of theft protection. The bike is registered with parking services and helps UNC police locate stolen bikes.

This also raises the question of why students don’t pay for the cheaper pass to begin with considering there is a significant price difference. I have purchased both permits throughout my time at UNC. It just depended on where my classes were located and if I felt that Y-lot was conveniently located near my classes or if I should just splurge for the more expensive permit. In 2019, I purchased an even more expensive permit to have the ability to park in the Kepner lot when that lot wasn’t part of the commuter pass.

I am guilty of receiving a few parking citations myself, but they were all appealed. On my first day of class in 2019, I parked in the Kepner faculty lot thinking it was the student parking which was an honest mistake.

I was also cited this past spring because I opted to purchase a fall pass and not an annual pass, I tried several times to purchase the spring permit, but the online system prevented me. When I was appealing the citation, I was told that they only sell annual passes to students, which was news to me. I had always been able to purchase a permit each semester, which I specifically did because of COVID-19 when I wasted money on a permit I wasn’t able to use.

Many students and faculty commute to campus, leaving a person no choice but to pay to park on campus if they don’t want to park on the street and walk. Hopefully, UNC will someday be in the financial position to lower the price of parking permits or eliminate the charge.

Hannah Turpen is a recent journalism graduate from the University of Northern Colorado.

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