Students Pay an Arm and a Leg to Park on Campus, Survey Finds

By Ashley Halsey III
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 29, 2009

College kids with cars pay a parking premium if they keep their wheels on campus.

If they go to a Washington area school, it costs $225 to $1,300 a year to park, according to a survey taken by AAA.

"Students can pay a pretty penny just to own and operate a car and to park it on campus and to cover all the other incidentals -- the cost of insurance, car care, repairs and other expenses -- that invariably come with having a car," said John B. Townsend II, the association's mid-Atlantic manager of public and government affairs.

Despite the cost, almost three-quarters of the nation's 18.4 million college students will return to campus with a car, AAA said. The association's annual guide said some students will spend as much as $8,095 a year to keep and maintain a new car at school.

"Typically, college students spend nearly $15 billion annually on cars, according to various estimates," Townsend said

Parking might be more available on campuses in some parts of the country, but in an urban setting such as Washington it comes at a high price. The AAA survey of area colleges found that the annual student parking fee at Howard University was $240. A permit for the general parking lot at George Mason University cost $225. At American University, it cost an estimated $964 to park on a Nebraska Avenue lot. In College Park, the University of Maryland charges $412 for those who live on campus and $213 for those who commute daily to school.

George Washington University students pay $550 a semester for a parking decal, and students who commute to Georgetown University pay $656 a semester to park at satellite lots in Rosslyn.

"We strongly discourage all of our students from bringing cars to school," said Georgetown spokesman Andy Pino. "Georgetown is served by multiple public transportation options, and we encourage our students to take full advantage of them. Students who live on campus are not eligible for daily or monthly parking on campus."

The price of trying to elude parking fees can be even higher.

"The trouble is, if you run up a pile of unpaid parking tickets, some colleges won't verify your degree to prospective employers and graduate school programs until the debt is paid in full," Townsend said.

In College Park, students who lack parking permits can be fined $75 and a $20 "late fee" for failing to buy one when they should have. Aware that college students have their ways of fabricating and sharing documents (notably, ones that might indicate they are of drinking age), the university has a $300 ticket for "the illegal display and/or receipt of permit or decal."

Renting a car to avoid all this isn't an option for most college students because rental companies generally won't deal with anyone younger than 25. But car-sharing services are available at American, Gallaudet University, Georgetown, George Mason, George Washington, Howard and U-Md.

For example, students 18 to 21 are eligible to participate in Zipcar programs that allow them to reserve and drive a car by the hour.

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