Apr 19, 2019

Gas, distance burden commuter students

Fresno State junior Edith Marin drives to campus from Firebaugh twice
a week with her sister. She is part of the 25 percent of students who
make the commute to campus from cities outside of Fresno.
Esteban Cortez / The Collegian

Rising gas prices and a limited number parking spaces are just two of the obstacles that commuter students encounter every day.

For the last two years, Alan Wileman, a senior at Fresno State, has been commuting back and forth from Visalia.

“I have to come up to class five days a week,” Wileman said. “I spend about an hour each way. About 10 hours a week on the road.”

Wileman’s biggest problem with commuting is often forgetting things at home.

“I’ve forgotten my wallet before,” Wileman said. “ It was bad because I was running out of gas and I had to have my brother come down and help me out.”

The other conflict Wileman has with commuting is making it to class on time.

“I’m definitely the guy who shows up five minutes late,” Wileman said. “The first class of the day usually gets a five-minute cushion. It really depends on traffic. Sometimes an accident will slow me down, but I really try to time it perfect because I don’t want to sit around and do nothing on campus.”

Sociology professor Timothy Kubal said some of the most common truancies he gets are from his student commuters.

“You always get a couple people whose truck died, or something happened to their car,” Kubal said. “ I had someone this semester who had their car stolen and they couldn’t get to campus.”

With close to 1,000 students living in the dorms, everyone else is technically a commuter. Roughly 75 percent of students live in the city of Fresno, meaning that 25 percent of students are commuting in and out of Central Valley cities, according to data from a study done by the Office of Institutional Effectiveness at Fresno State.

Fresno State offers a commuter services program for students looking for help with the daily drives. Its website provides information on ridesharing for students and staff.

The website also offers a carpool matching service online to help students find the perfect carpool partners.  Students who are a part of this program are also offered preferred carpool parking.

Faculty and staff are also asked to cut down on their daily driving by walking or biking to campus. The commuter services program offers faculty and staff “scrip” cash for every day they use an alternative means of transportation.

With rising gas prices, commuter students have just another thing to worry about.

“Sometimes people complain about the cost of gas, and that’s another big problem with commuter students,” Wileman said.

Wileman admitted that he is financially better off than most students, but the price of gas was still on his mind.

“I use about a quarter tank every day,” he said. “It costs me about $60 or $70 dollars to fill up, so I’m spending close to $15 a day for gas. I have a pretty good car too. I can only imagine how bad it is for some of those people driving trucks.”

Kubal explained that hearing student complaints doesn’t bother him, except when the students ask for special treatment.

“I hear them complain, and it’s fine,” Kubal said. “I don’t really care except for when they want some special deal on their grades. ‘My car broke down, can I make up the quiz?’ No. You can’t do that.”

While Kubal voiced some of the problems with having such a large commuter-based campus, he said he likes those who do.

“They tend to be older and more mature,” Kubal said. “Commuter students are our bread and butter. They are everywhere so it’s hard to be critical of them.”

It isn’t all bad for Wileman, though, who explained that the extra time spent driving in the morning can help him function better in class.

“It gives me a chance to get going every morning,” Wileman said. “I have an extra hour to get started.”

Even with all his struggles commuting, Wileman said he would only move into Fresno if it offered him a stable job.

“It’s convenient and nice living close to home,” Wileman said. “If there’s a job in Fresno, though, I’d have to move. I can’t afford to be doing this five days a week forever.”

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