Students at the Grenfell campus of Memorial University in Corner Brook say a proposal to hike parking fees from five dollars to $75 and up is a financial punch that will hurt.
The university has proposed charging a range of $75 to $250 for parking permits, come September. That's a huge increase over the five dollars a year charged now.
Also under consideration is a proposal to have metered parking in one area, at a rate of $1.50 per hour.
The president of the Grenfell Campus student union, Sofia Descalzi, says the fee increase could create a barrier to education for already cash-strapped students, most of whom she says live under the poverty line.
"We believe that fee increases of any form pose an inaccessibility to students to get their education. We have to think holistically when we're thinking about how students can get the maximum services and the best education."
Descalzi said that the student union would like to see the university explore options such as car-pooling and public transportation, which were briefly mentioned in the proposal.
Closing the gap
The Director of Facilities Management with Grenfell Campus, Rayna Luther, said she's received feedback from students who think the proposed rate increases are unfair, as well as faculty and staff who think the current rates are too low.
"It costs a lot more to maintain the parking areas than the revenue we are receiving from the permits and the ticketing right now," Luther told the Corner Brook Morning Show."
According to Luther, maintenance costs are $120,000 a year while parking permits and and tickets bring in only $4,500. That's a gap of $115,000.
"We're faced with having to do more with less and this is an area that definitely jumped out at us," she said. Luther said the proposed rate hike would be phased in, with the goal of making parking operations self sufficient within five years.
Bargain compared to other campuses
She said while the rate increases may seem high, the current rate of five dollars is at the bottom when compared with other universities.
- Memorial University looks to end subsidizing parking rates
As of September 2016, Memorial's St. John's campus charged undergraduate students $36 a year. Dalhousie University in Halifax charged $324 a year.
The Grenfell students union and the administration are looking for feedback and ideas from students.
"We're going to gather up all the feedback that we've received, as well as the comments received in the forums," Luther said. Once senior administration makes a decision, it will go to the board of regents for approval.
"We're just really hoping that people get on board with us and get creative and recognize that we have a problem to solve and we're looking to them for some help."
The proposal and feedback form can be found here.