Parking fees are not a barrier to education

In the last edition of The Medium before the holidays, Lori-Lee Emshey reported an Erindale College Council proposal to annually increase parking fees by 3% in order to accommodate additional parking on campus. Enrolment at UTM will experience growth over the next five-year period. Failing to address expansion will result in a lack of parking for students that prefer to drive to school.


Gilbert Cassar, president of UTMSU, responded to the ECC proposal with an outrageous claim: “Parking fees are a barrier to education.” Perhaps in the early 20th century this notion of barriers to education was true. Nowadays, with access to scholarships and OSAP, I can’t help but search endlessly and needlessly for this imaginary barrier. Cassar should read the U of T Policy on Student Financial Support, which states, “No student offered admission to a program at the University of Toronto should be unable to enter or complete a program due to lack of financial means.” U of T has eliminated financial barriers. There are fewer barriers to education today than there ever has been in history.


Students across the country cry foul anytime there is a proposed financial increase. The fact of the matter is that every university must determine the best way to raise funds for future growth. Some of the best universities in the world are in Canada, and to expect us to keep up with the rest of the world without adequate finances is unrealistic.


Students and UTMSU must take a sensible approach when opposing fee inflation. It is only logical for students to resist any and all financial increases, but simply doing so does not make the students’ case very strong. Hence, we must be selective in the fees we unanimously oppose, or risk having our collective voice silenced.


Apparently, Cassar is developing alternative methods to raise funds for UTM parking expansion. Whether or not those ideas are feasible remains to be seen. Perhaps Cassar would prefer tuition increases. However, the substitution of one limited “barrier” for an all-encompassing “barrier” is not ideal. Who better to solicit than the students that use the parking facilities? It would not be fair for all students to share the financial burden.


The students that drive and park on campus today might argue that they should not have to fund the future endeavours of UTM. While I don’t agree with this short-sighted approach, I can certainly appreciate the concerns of students that do park on campus and do have limited funds. What’s the solution? Don’t park on campus. Park nearby and take public transit from there. It certainly is better than paying for parking, particularly if the minimal 3% increase will prevent you from receiving your university education.


The proposed increase is small. The most expensive parking permits would increase by 11¢ per day, which amounts to $3.30 per month, or $26.41 for the entire school year. Pay and display parking would increase by 39¢ for the day. By simply rejecting a viable and sensible approach to acquiring finances, Cassar is merely appeasing the fewer than 25% of current UTM students that park on campus. Without addressing the need for parking expansion now, future students will have nowhere to park. Is it worse to have a 3% increase or to have no option to park on campus in 2015? You decide.


Andrew O’Brien

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