College offers a plethora of opportunities. Students can focus on getting a high GPA, meeting new people or joining clubs. People who live on campus can do all of that within a ten-minute walk. Commuters, however, might live over an hour away from campus.
Paying for tuition alone is expensive. Adding room and board fees and a meal plan leaves students paying up to $25,000 a year.
Saving money, however, means making sacrifices. “I carpool twice to get here and back, so it takes around forty minutes,” says Kylie Caldwell, a senior information systems major. “My professor has a policy where if you’re fifteen minutes late, you’ll still be marked absent. I have to get up early just to make sure I make it on time.”
Late night studying presents another difficulty for commuters, who have to wake up early to find parking spots, arrive on time to their morning classes and eat breakfast. “Having 8:30 a.m. classes suck[s] for commuters,” Caldwell says.
Off-Campus Student Services provides commuters with carpooling programs, shuttle schedules and free transit lines. These initiatives aim to help students navigate campus while reducing UMBC’s carbon footprint.
Commuters face rush hour, which may add over thirty minutes to a commute. Once on campus, finding a parking space poses new difficulties. Senior environmental science and visual arts double major Kristina Soetje says, “I’ll arrive between 8 to 10 a.m. If you get to school at around 10:30 a.m., you can still get spots, but at 11 a.m. there are problems.”
With regard to the time commuters spend searching for spaces Soetje says, “I’m never usually late to my classes, but I do think the time could be used for studying.”
Commuters do not spend $11,000 a year on room and board fees like residential students do, but they have other expenditures such as gas. John Xu, a senior biology major and psych minor, says, “I luckily have good mileage but I still have to fill my gas [tank] once a week.”
The problem with commuting is not always the long drive. The time it takes to find a good parking spot is also taxing.
“My driver sometimes gives up looking for a [parking] spot. There’s no point in wasting all that time looking for a spot,” Caldwell says. The Stadium Lot, Commons Garage and inner circle often become heavily congested by noon.
Unavailable spots frequently force commuters away from convenient parking locations. “[Freshmen] sometimes have to park in the church parking lot,” Xu says, “then the trek to campus takes like fifteen minutes.”
Commuters have ideas about how to expand parking. “Maybe you could build new garages above currently existing ones. Of course, this would have to be done during the winter or summer sessions when they aren’t in much use,” Caldwell says.
However, starting a construction project may decrease already limited parking spaces.
Some students find it convenient to live at home and commute. “I live seventeen miles away, so what’s the point [of living on campus]?” Soetje says. “I like going home to my cats and my family. I like home cooked meals and I like my bedroom.”
Personal finances largely impact the commuter’s ability to live on campus. “I pay for everything out of pocket,” Caldwell says. “I can’t pay ten thousand [extra] dollars a semester for a room.”