By Dixie Samaniego

There are many college affordability challenges that must be addressed for our students today. If I were a
college president, I would tackle costs beyond tuition specifically transportation to better support
students. Whether students are driving or using a rideshare service, we all struggle and spend much more
than we need to. Colleges must address transportation costs for students and introduce creative ways to
lower costs such as allowing parking permits to be shared.

As a first-generation college student attending Cal State Fullerton (CSUF), I experienced unknown
transportation costs of commuting to campus during my first year amounting to over $800. When I look
back on this experience, I recall all the times I struggled and worried over getting to class and hoping my
car would start. My car had small, but costly maintenance issues throughout the semester. Yet, I never
thought that I would have to miss a final exam because of them. I remember feeling like I was in some
soap opera as I sat in my car missing my English 100 final exam. I never knew that my academic success
in college was contingent upon having enough money to even get to campus. I know as a student at a
commuter school so many other students have the same worries and the same struggles.

This year due to COVID-19 I’ve been able to save money by not having to commute and pay for parking
permits, gas, and unexpected car issues. The lingering question I ask myself and the question every
commuter student is asking–what happens when we transfer back to in-person instruction? In Fall 2019
the parking permit was $285 and now, in Fall 2020, it is $334 due to a new parking structure. According
to the California Aid Student Commission’s (CSAC) Student Expenses and Resources Survey (SEARS),
a third of students reported housing insecurity in the past month and 35% reported food insecurity or
hunger. When students are forced to pay for permits they weigh whether to eat a healthy meal, eat at all,
or have stable housing. A breakdown of CSAC’s survey also reports that Black students that receive Cal
Grant and Pell Grant report the biggest food and housing insecurity–54% and 47% respectively. If
students had the option to share parking permits they would be able to use the money they save to eat
meals and/or have stable housing while pursuing their degree.

With no clear forecast of whether or not parking permits will decrease in price, allowing students to share
permits will alleviate the financial burden for current and future Titans. Many students are only on
campus a couple of days a week. Even during days students are on campus, many only stay for a couple
of hours and then head to their job. While it isn’t an issue for some students now that they’re at home, the
uncertainty is still there for students having in-person instruction. Allowing students to share parking
permits would reduce the indirect cost of college for almost half the student body at CSUF.

Continuing my education is important to me as a first-generation college student. Allowing students to
share parking permits and split the costs of expensive permits would relieve a financial burden for so
many. This is especially the case in the COVID-19 era and the financial insecurity students across the
nation are facing. Continuing to operate like we did before COVID-19 will not only make it more difficult
for current and future students to succeed but further increase inequities that have already existed in
higher education. Students have enrolled in CSU’s and overall higher education institutions nationally in
record-breaking numbers, in spite of a global pandemic. As we recover from this pandemic, it is
imperative for our higher education leaders and institutions to ensure every student is able to afford costs
beyond tuition. It is time to create policy solutions that are centering the most impacted. It is time to listen
to students and allow parking permits to be shared.