Full-time students will pay almost three times more to park at USM next year, according to a plan released by University officials late last week.
The proposed $4 per credit hour fee will force a student taking 12 credit hours to pay $96.
The following year the fee will double, costing a full-time student at least $192.
Students now pay $35 for a parking decal if they choose to park on campus.
The fees will help fund a 1,200-space parking garage on the Portland campus, scheduled to be completed by fall of 2003.
The Board of Trustees will vote on the proposal at its May meeting, as is customary with all fee changes.
“We’ve really tried to keep this piece as low as possible, but USM is an urban institution and higher parking costs are a reality,” said Judy Ryan, executive assistant to the president. “This is the best shot we’ve had at getting a parking garage.”
Overall, the 1,200-space garage will give the Portland campus 600 additional parking spots, because it will be built on top of an existing lot.
The parking garage is part of a larger project that includes a 400 to 500 space lecture hall and a 15,000 square foot building dedicated to classroom space and offices.
The state approved a recent bond that awarded $8 million to USM. But the University needed $19.4 million to pay for the complete the project.
Ryan said the University was able to raise the remaining $11 million through a combination of loans, fundraising and the new fees.
Some members of the Student Senate support the plan for the parking garage.
“I think it [the fee increase] is fine,” said Student Senate Treasurer Justin LaBerge. “The bottom line is if students want a parking garage students are going to have to pay for it. It’s not going to come from the parking garage fairy.”
However, the plan forces all students to pay the parking fee – even those who don’t drive to school.
LaBerge admitted such cases are concerning, but added students pay fees for a lot of services they don’t use.
“That’s what happens when you’re part of a community,” he said. “We all pay for things we don’t use. I pay a health fee that I have no problem paying, but I use my own doctor.”
Officials also point out that the fee will also be used to fund the shuttle buses between campuses, a service that all students use.
Some are also concerned that faculty and staff will not be forced to pay any additional fees, leaving students to bear the financial burden of the parking garage alone.
Ryan said the University couldn’t impose new fees on faculty or staff because parking fees are tied to their contracts. Any increase would have to be negotiated and approved by the individual unions.
“I think it’s outrageous that students will pay that much,” said Don Anspach, president of the full-time faculty union that serves around 300 employees. “But we [faculty] work here. Why should people who work at a place have to pay to park there?”
Anspach said he considers parking a benefit of employment and added that most Portland employers offer parking to their employees at reduced rates.
LaBerge said the system is fair because the faculty and staff won’t be allowed to park in the garage unless they pay the increased fees as well. The plan also confines faculty and staff to specific lots.
Beginning next fall, all parking lots will have gates and people will use their USM identification cards to gain entry. Students will be assigned specific lots and faculty and staff won’t be able to park there.
Ryan said the plan is still in a draft form and could change. She presented the idea to the Student Senate on Friday and plans to do the same with the Professional Staff and Faculty Senates.
“I’m hoping we’ll get a good dialogue,” said Ryan. “And if there are any better ideas, I’m willing to hear them.”
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