Parking a foe without financial aid

Spinnaker

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Parking at UNF can be an adventure. With cramped lots that often require an additional commute on a shuttle, diminished parking in garages due to construction and expensive fines for those who don’t follow the rules, additional stress is created for students outside the classroom.

Having a parking permit alone does not guarantee a good place to park, but for many students, buying a parking permit is an unreachable goal until they receive their financial aid money.

Because the U.S. Department of Education deems that pre-disbursed financial aid can only be deferred to pay “institutional charges,” which include tuition and fees, room and board and other educational expenses that are paid to the school directly, students are not able to defer fees associated with parking.

At $95 for an annual discount permit, $160 for an annual premium permit and $205 for an annual housing permit, students who are strapped for cash at the beginning of the semester are out of luck.

Parking without a permit on campus is a $30 fine, which is outrageous to begin with considering citations issued by the City of Jacksonville Parking Facilities and Enforcement Division for similar offenses range from $15 to $25.

And fines can add up.

If a student was to park each weekday without a pass for the first three weeks on campus, his or her fines, if assessed daily at $30, would add up to $450 – nearly five times the rate for an annual discount permit.

Daily passes are relatively inexpensive at $3 a day, but seem unfair since the students purchasing them are doing so only because they can’t afford an annual pass. This is blatant discrimination to those students who are already struggling to make ends meet.

It is understandable the university’s hands are tied by the Department of Education; obviously it shouldn’t be forced to break federal law even to assist students with financial need.

But there is a remedy to circumvent the Board of Education that is already taking place at other campuses.

Florida State University assesses a transportation access fee per credit hour as part of their fees and tuition with no additional charge.

The only requirement for students to obtain a parking permit is a valid student ID and proof of registration for classes.

By simply being enrolled, they are entitled to park legally on campus from day one of the semester, as opposed to UNF where students who can’t afford a permit are forced to employ sneaky tactics or count on dumb luck to avoid citations.

The administration at UNF should follow the lead of FSU and make parking on campus fair for everyone, but then again, why would they?

Four-hundred-and-fifty dollars for every student who can’t pay for a permit is big revenue amidst the current budget crunch.

Even those who pay for daily parking are pitching in to the tune of $45 during the same three-week period. When a new parking garage goes up on campus, be sure to thank the students who didn’t have enough money to park legally or paid extra money for daily parking for their generous “contribution.”