Transportation fee won’t travel far with students
The Transportation and Parking Advisory Committee is in talks to institute a mandatory transportation fee that would require students to pay an additional $25 in student service fees, a move that would be unpopular with many students.
Though the plan to add on another student fee to a bill students already have to pay to receive their education is still only in the consideration phase, some interesting numbers are at play. As of fiscal year 2013, student service fees are already $250 per semester. TPAC is running an approximate $600,000 deficit, and according to U.S. News and World Report, 32,639 students are currently enrolled in the University. If each of these students paid the extra $25 fee, the University would be set to gain $815,975.
While this could cover the current deficit, the fee would be unnecessary.
“Transportation and Parking has a dual revenue source of both parking permits and parking fines,” said Student Government Association President Charles Haston. “I don’t think it’s really necessary to create a third revenue source for them.”
Director of Parking and Transportation Robert Browand said a fee is being discussed, but it only has gotten as far as discussion.
“If a fee was imposed, it would go toward the cost of the existing shuttle operations and fund additional transit services,” Browand said.
Additional transit services refers to the possibility of shuttles buses that would take students outside UH and to nearby areas like Midtown. It could be a beneficial service for students, but students might not be willing be to take on this additional financial burden, considering the other expenses they have to pay.
UScholars freshman Diana Hindi said on-campus transportation is important but not enough for students to have to pay for it.
“A chunk of my tuition is already going to whatever, and then another little chunk might go to something I might not even use. Even if I do believe it’s important to have, I just don’t think it’d be fair,” Hindi said.
Biochemistry junior Tosobua Ogbe agreed.
“I don’t drive. I walk everywhere on campus, and if I need to go somewhere, someone else picks me up. It’s one thing for the (Campus Recreation and Wellness Center) and stuff like that, because you have it there if you ever do want to use it, but transportation-wise, if you need to get somewhere, you most likely won’t be using the buses,” Ogbe said.
“They shouldn’t charge everyone for it, because there are a lot of people on-campus who don’t drive.”
Haston is adamant in his opposition to this proposed fee.
“I just don’t think we need a new type of fee,” Haston said. “The precedent of allowing an auxiliary service to leverage a compulsory fee on the student body troubles me.”
SGA will present legislation opposing this fee today in its weekly meeting.
According to the bill “Opposition of Creation of Compulsory Auxiliary Services’ Fees,” auxiliary services — the category under which transportation falls — was established to be self-sufficient and financially independent, meaning it would have no revenue from student fees. The bill also says a new compulsory fee would adversely affect students’ finances, especially since about 70 percent of UH students receive a need-based financial aid, according to the bill.
TPAC also wants to levy this fee on its own, but it would be unable to, considering that it is student-funded, so it is required to go through the Student Fees Advisory Committee.
In addition to student obstacles, TPAC will also have to go through the state. Texas legislation requires that each Texas university and each student service fee have its own specific set of legislations. If TPAC can get past roars of student dissent, it’ll have to take on the state next.
The campus needs to provide more than just what we’re paying for. For students who want to get out there and explore the city, other options exist; a fee is not the only way it can be done.
A partnership could be struck with the Metropolitan Transit Authority or a rental car service that would allow students to pay on a usage basis instead of a flat, mandatory fee. Students could individually pay for the services based on when they actually use it. There’s no need to take the money from every student.
Another option the University could look into is a rental bike system. A system like this already exists in Midtown. Since many students are commuters and would probably be unwilling to carry a bike to and from school, a rental bike service could prove more useful.
Listen to the people you’re serving. If they don’t want another compulsory fee, don’t give them one. The University needs to remember who it really serves — students. And students being students, they’re not going to agree to yet another fee tacked onto their already high college costs.
Opinion columnist Julie Nguyen is a communications junior and may be reached at [email protected]