The Commuter Student Experience & Advocating for Accessible Transportation

The Commuter Student Experience & Advocating for Accessible Transportation

Commuter students are an incredibly diverse group of students. They consist of full-time students living at home, part-time students who live off campus in apartments, or even parents who commute for night classes. Commuter students often have to use various modes of transportation in order to get to school, which includes their own car, bus, or even Uber. A commuter student might have to make sacrifices in order to attend school, which makes it important for colleges to have flexibility for their students. Despite this, there are several benefits for commuter students, as well as disadvantages. 


  1. Saving on tuition – Commuter students tend to live at home with their parents or even in apartments in the city. This is usually much cheaper than paying for housing on campus, with funds going up to even $40,000 a school year. 
  2. More control in schedule – Being a commuter student allows more flexibility in your schedule, you are able to have a job and set your own times for your activities and school work. 
  3. Ensured privacy – Privacy goes out the door once you get a roommate in college. You see each other’s way of living and some boundaries will eventually be broken. Living at home or somewhere else as a commuter student allows you to be fully comfortable in your surroundings.
  4. Comfort and stability – College can be a big step for many students and a big step that not everyone is ready to take. If you still live with your parents you can still have access to comfort and stability central home can provide. This can grant you the confidence in your school life knowing you have a sense of stability at home. 


  1. Traffic – Accessible transportation is often a huge challenge for commuter students, and traffic in transportation is a problem. The lack of routes can often lead to huge traffic when getting to and from school. 
  2. More effort in making connections/friendships/social life – When you live on campus, you automatically get opportunities to make friends and meet new people. Whether it’s your roommates or the people across the hall, you eventually get to know everyone. However, once you’re commuting, you have to put in more effort to make friends. Folks involved in organizations and clubs usually live on campus, so the lack of a social life is a challenge for commuter students. 
  3. Effect on academic performance – the stress and time it takes to commute can take a toll on a student. Often, a commuter student will start to skip class because of the lack of accessible transportation or because they don’t think it’s worth it. This eventually leads to a negative impact on their academic performance. 
  4. Can sometimes be exhausting – Commuting can sometimes be exhausting. Depending on the time of your commute, traffic of your commute, or your mode of transportation. Commuting can take from 30 minutes to 3 hours for some students. Waking up early to get to school and leaving school really late in the day can really put a tax on your mental/ physical state and add excess stress to your school life.


While being a commuter student can make higher education cheaper and more flexible, a prominent barrier that many commuters face is accessible transportation. Convenient and reliable transportation helps commuter students remain in control of their academics without having to worry about getting to class on time. Whether it be public transportation costs or parking permit rates, colleges should acknowledge the barriers commuter students face compared to their on-campus living counterparts. Removing transportation barriers builds a more inclusive and supportive environment for all students regardless of their circumstances. If university officials do not prioritize basic needs such as accessible transportation for their students, it may be up to the public and students alike to advocate for themselves until their needs are met. 


The topic of advocacy may be overwhelming for some. However, there are many opportunities available, some unique to each university and some more applicable to the public, that can help individuals begin to advocate for accessible transportation in their own communities. 

  1. Get involved in commuter support clubs on campus – Joining clubs/organizations tailored towards commuters can help students meet new people with similar situations and expose more opportunities for advocacy directly within their university.
  2. Utilizing public transportation in your city – By using public transportation more often, individuals can help build a support system for the local public transportation programs and this may lead leaders to recognize the public transport demand and improve the current state of public transportation.  
  3. Expressing support for advancing public transportation – Participating in public transportation campaigns and signing petitions concerning the progression in the accessibility and quality of public transportation systems can be an effective way to promote increases in funding and attention towards this objective.  

Commuter student resources:

American Public Transportation Association: LINK