Kelly: Parking permits — the commuter student fee

A+full+parking+lot+sits+adjacent+to+Eck+Stadium+on+Wichita+State%27s+campus.

File photo

A full parking lot sits adjacent to Eck Stadium on Wichita State's campus.

As the school year kicks off, it’s time for students who commute to campus to shell out $150 for a yearlong parking pass — a small price to pay for the luxury of fighting over limited parking spaces on the outskirts of campus.

Although going sans-permit has its own laundry list of drawbacks, commuter students should still take a moment to weigh the value of a permit before buying one — especially when they’ve already purchased books and paid increased student fees on top of tuition.

If forking over $150 could alleviate the stress of parking on campus, it would be worth the money. As it is, though, students who don’t arrive on campus at the crack of dawn are left to scrounge for whatever they can find — all the while pining for a parking space in the half-empty reserved lots.

If that isn’t enough, $150 is an optimistic estimate of how much commuter students should budget out for parking-related expenses in a year. Students who unknowingly obstruct their license plates by pulling through a parking space or who stay parked in a lot near Koch Arena too late on a game night can expect a citation.

So, if paying for a permit doesn’t earn any special treatment, what’s the point?

According to an article on Wichita State’s website from 2014 when the university made the switch to a permits-only parking system, it was to “ensure that more parking is available for commuter students on campus.”

Of course that’s a noble goal, but if the issue is non-students crowding commuters out of the parking lots, why not give every student a complementary permit and ticket non-students taking up space on campus?

Because it’s not really about parking. It’s about money — or lack thereof.

In a place like Kansas where the state government has decided time and again not to invest in higher education, the financial burden of running an institution falls on its students.

Wichita State is not alone in passing such expenses off to the student body. In fact, commuter students at other Kansas universities pay even more to park on campus—$180 and $288 at K-State and KU respectively.

Based on tuition alone, the cost of a college degree is astronomical — not to mention student fees and added expenses. Parking fees are another way of wringing cash out of already cash-strapped students.

For students who don’t want to deal with parking on campus at all, public transportation can seem like a promising alternative. From a financial standpoint, however, that can add up too. A one-month city bus pass costs $55.

Outside of carpooling or being dropped off on campus daily, it can be tough to cheat the system of paying too much for a lackluster parking experience.

Parking permits are just an unavoidable—if infuriating—commuter student fee.