Springfield College students were greeted with a surprise when they went online or to the Department of Public Safety to register their vehicles at the beginning of the school year. Instead of the $60 that they had grown accustomed to paying for the past several years, students were faced with a $100 fee to obtain an on-campus parking permit for both semesters. The $40 increase caused mixed reactions for students with cars on campus.
“If they didn’t basically double it, I don’t think half the students would even have cared or noticed or paid attention to it. It was just that they went up so significantly,” senior Drew Supernor said.
Others were simply upset that they did not receive a notification as to the reasons behind the increase prior to registering their vehicle.
“If you’re going to increase it, you would have had to make some change to make it say, ‘This is why we increased it’ and let us know, not just us go in to sign up and everyone’s like, ‘Oh it’s $100 now,’” senior Mike Abate said.
Regardless of the reaction, the increased rate for a parking permit certainly caused a sizable amount of commotion. Rates can be altered at any time by a college with or without any reasoning, but in the case of Springfield College’s parking, there were three factors at play according to Vice President for Administration and Finance John Mailhot.
One of the biggest misconceptions is that the parking permit price was raised in order to cover the repaving of Lot 9, which is for commuters. According to Mailhot, the rate was not raised solely for the purpose of funding the improvement. That was one factor, but the other two involved comparability to similar institutions, and increased supply and demand.
Before the change was instituted, the Department of Public Safety conducted research regarding the rates for parking at other local institutions in the area. According to their findings, annual parking costs $250 at American International College, $220 at Western New England, and $150 at Mount Holyoke and Smith College.
“We felt that some of the higher numbers that were being charged were probably more than we felt was reasonable, but we did feel that given that we hadn’t increased our fees in a number of years, and we have made some significant safety improvements over the years, that $100 was a reasonable increase and still once again put us significantly below what other institutions are charging for the privilege of parking on campus,” Mailhot said.
Another factor, that of supply and demand, refers to the ever-increasing amount of students that want (or need) to park their vehicles on campus. Mailhot said that with the limited amount of parking spaces and high demand, it made sense to look into raising the price.
The issue that some students still have is that there is no easily accessible alternative to parking on campus. If students do not pay for parking on campus, they have to go searching for streets surrounding the school that they can legally park on, which is not necessarily an easy or safe task.
“All of the streets that have on-street parking around the campus are not patrolled,” Mailhot said. “Our officers are not responsible for ticketing and overseeing those on-street parking spaces. We believe that it’s [the increased rate] frankly a pretty reasonable fee for that safety.”
Still, some students feel that they should not have to pay so much for crowded parking that is not necessarily guaranteed all the time, such as when athletic events are on campus and visitors take up a sizable amount of spots. Parking on campus may be a privilege, but for many students, it is also a necessity, so they are forced to pay whatever it costs to get a parking permit.
“I can understand that they improved the commuter lot, but living on campus, I don’t ever park there, and I haven’t seen any other improvements to the current lots the school already has and that I’m able to park in,” Supernor said. “I also think it’s a little ridiculous that I have to park all the way across campus [near Blake Hall] because I’m unable to find parking in the Senior Suites where I live.”
Mailhot said that the school plans on taking an in-depth look at all of their property in the near future, and that increasing the amount of parking is certainly something that will be discussed at that time. No property has been identified specifically for additional parking at this time, however.
As for the parking permit fee, the rate will remain at $100 ($50 per semester) for now, and will be assessed for future years.
“I think it will be part of a discussion that we have as we look at the operating budget on an annual basis,” Mailhot said. “I’m not suggesting that it necessarily would go up for 2014-15, which will be our next budget year, but it will certainly be something that we take a look at to identify whether or not the $100 is still a reasonable number.”