Young man runs by parked cars
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Martin Center column explores campus parking costs

Megan Zogby writes for the Martin Center about the high costs of parking on college campuses.

When students pay tuition, they also pay a mix of mandatory and optional fees. One constant headache for students has been paying for a parking permit to leave their car on campus.

In the University of North Carolina system, parking prices can vary greatly. Parking passes for schools such as North Carolina State University and UNC-Charlotte charge the most, expecting students to pay $400-$500 for the academic year.

Summer passes, too, can add on costs at some schools, though others include summer parking with the fee for their annual parking pass. For students who have to pay extra, it can be around $70 at UNC-Wilmington and NC State, but $120-$195 at UNC-Charlotte.

Parking complaints are a perennial issue. As Inside Higher Ed’s Maria Shine Stewart tells of her painful experiences with university parking, students and faculty alike get frustrated by the sometimes expensive and often Byzantine system. She suggested that universities eliminate “steep fines for just wanting to go to class” and make it easier for new people on campus to navigate the rules.

The problem isn’t that universities require commuting students to pay for parking; at least non-commuting students don’t have to bear the cost of parking if all students paid a fee as they do for athletics. Instead, the bigger problem is that one slip-up can carry steep fines. Low-income students who don’t live on campus have few options except to pay for a permit and tickets. …

… Commuting is still cheaper than dorms or on-campus housing, but parking permit prices aren’t standardized across the UNC system.

Outside the UNC system, students aren’t happy either. High prices are one thing, but customer service is a sticking point. In the Duke Chronicle, Bella Miller called Duke Parking and Transportation “an exploitative, money-making arm of the ‘non-profit’ that is Duke University.” Duke’s equivalent of a commuter parking permit is $423 annually.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...