BY JOSH BURY
It’s the kind of freeze that Conestoga College students can look forward to. No, it isn’t a polar vortex. Students don’t anticipate those. They know the school will be open anyways.
It’s a freeze on the cost of a parking pass for the 2014-2015 academic year.
In a conversation with Conestoga Students Inc. president Jason Wright on Jan. 20, Spoke learned a meeting that morning had led to an agreement with the college to freeze the cost of the pass for students.
“We’re very happy, especially since it is for students … we had a very good discussion with the college about it, and I was really surprised with what they came back with: they’ll review the whole process, they’ll look at various options, and they want to take into account the students who are only here for eight months, ” Wright said.
CSI has been advocating for a reduction in the cost of parking passes for students since the beginning of the academic year. A meeting early in the fall semester laid out CSI’s position, but the college noted that there was increased cost on their part from required enforcement of parking regulations.
Some students were parking without paying for the pass and, in some cases, were using fraudulent passes, which meant that students who were paying could sometimes not find a spot. The college stepped up enforcement to make parking without a pass a costly venture.
But in the Jan. 20 meeting, the college said student compliance with parking measures had improved and, at the very least, students could expect a freeze on the cost of parking passes for the next academic year.
One of the parties representing the college at that meeting was vice-president of corporate affairs Kevin Mullan.
“Because parking is an ancillary service, we don’t receive subsidies for it and it has to be fully recovered. So if people are not paying for their parking, or not buying passes, or have fraudulent passes, it means the people who are paying are paying for it,” Mullan said.
When asked if students could see a reduction instead of just a freeze, Mullan was non-committal, saying that the college’s budget process would determine if that was possible.
“We’re saying that, minimally, next year we can look at freezing the parking pass rate for students … we’ll be looking at the costs. That’s why I say it will go through the budget process. Even a freeze could put a lot of pressure on … but minimally, we’ll be looking at a freeze,” Mullan said.
Mullan added that the budget is normally finalized in May or June, so students can expect a clearer picture in the spring.
CSI, for their part, has vowed to continue to advocate for other cost-saving measures for students. One possible option is an eight-month pass, instead of the current annual model. Students who purchase this hypothetical pass would not be allowed to park during the summer, and Wright argues that the college should charge less. Most programs do not have a summer component.
“I’d like to see an eight-month pass … They are open to exploring that option. The large majority of the students are here for eight months,” Wright said.
He added that, despite the freeze, the fight is far from over.
“We are going to constantly continue to press them and see what the status is on this. This is not something that is just going to die down. Just because we got them to freeze doesn’t mean we’re not going to continue to keep that open dialogue … we want to be actively involved with maintaining the voice for the students to make sure that they are heard,” Wright said.