Parking fee process riles GRU students

To senior Alexis Wren, it was a “deceitful” ploy by Georgia Regents University to charge her another $35 fee to park on the Summerville campus. University officials admit it took a long time to work out the fee structure but say students had ample warning about the fee.

 

Wren got an e-mail Oct. 8 telling her that if she wanted a decal to park on the former Augusta State University campus she needed to apply online. She went to the page, which included instructions for faculty and staff as well, followed the student instructions and thought she was done. At the very bottom of the page, however, was a listing of fees she didn’t see, although staff and faculty fees are near the top.

She picked up her decal and again no one mentioned the fee. Wren didn’t find out about it until she got an e-mail late last month telling her that a hold had been placed on her student account, meaning she couldn’t register again for classes until she paid the $35.

“It was just a very misleading process because the first e-mail they sent didn’t mention the fee. And then they sent a second e-mail and it didn’t say anything about it,” she said. “They had signs all around campus and none of them said it. All of the instructions are right there at the top of the page. There would be no reason for you to keep scrolling.”

Even though it is just $35, that can be significant, particularly for students who are getting scholarships or Pell grants that cover fees but don’t include money for contingencies like this, Wren said.

“They made a mistake,” she said. “I just don’t feel like we should be held accountable for that.”

The problem arose during consolidation, because those charged with figuring out parking were faced with two very different systems, said Karl Munschy, the director of auxiliary services at GRU, who was helping to figure out the financial structure for parking. The University System of Georgia considers parking an auxiliary service that must pay for itself, so beginning last October, Munschy and others on the work team had to figure out how to cover the $2.6 million annual cost of parking and transportation.

“The only way to fund that cost is through a fee,” Munschy said. The problem was trying to bring those old rates into a new and fair alignment, he said.

“Rates ranged from as low as 84 cents per month for somebody up to $60 per month,” Munschy said. “The goals were to try and bring those rates into alignment across the campus because we’re one university now. And do it at the lowest cost possible.”

The administration also wanted students to have the lowest possible rate, he said. Just trying to bring former ASU faculty staff, some of whom were paying the 84 cents a month for parking, up to a more aligned $10 a month meant hitting them with a 1,100 percent increase, Munschy said.

“That was a pretty significant increase,” he said. “Most of the complaints I’ve heard is from that group.”

Further complicating things were discussions about moving programs between the different campuses, Munschy said.

“Every time a department moved or something else changed during consolidation, it really changed the parking plan, too,” he said. “All of those things were being discussed throughout that year.”

There might have been as many as six different financing and parking plans sent up through the administration before a decision was finally made in July and materials were ordered, Munschy said.

“It is later than we had hoped it would be,” he said.

But notices about the parking fee were included in June in the weekly GReport e-mailed to students and again when registration opened in October. But students who aren’t in school in the summer don’t pay attention to those reports, said Wren.

Munschy disagrees.

“I think that they actually did a pretty good job communicating it out,” he said.

Faced with having to register to continue working toward her master’s degree in teaching and a bachelor’s in chemistry, Wren decided to give the pass back and take her chances parking off-campus.

“I feel that the whole thing was very deceitful and I don’t want to give them my money this semester,” she said. “Hopefully, it will go smoother next semester.”

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Thu, 06/22/2017 - 23:39

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