On March 30, USF Parking and Transportation Services (PATS) announced that it would not be giving refunds to students who had purchased permits for on-campus parking. PATS said it would no longer honor these requests due to the “future financial impact of the COVID-19” and so it could continue “maintaining [its] parking facilities and operational costs,” according to the announcement.
This decision is frustrating to many students who were not able to use the permit for the latter half of the semester. It’s doubly frustrating when put in context with the department’s previous statements. The price for a parking permit for a non-resident student can cost $91 for a single semester. As many students and their families lose work, even a small refund can make the difference in whether a student can afford necessities like groceries.
The department tweeted out on March 20 that its “current policy to provide prorated refunds for returned parking permits has been temporarily suspended.” PATS went on to explain that it was working on a plan to refund returned permits, a decision that was clearly reversed just 10 days later.
If the department was concerned that it wasn’t in an economic position to give refunds, then it should have withheld from suggesting they were.
To its credit, PATS is funded differently from other departments on campus. The department relies entirely on revenue from parking passes, meters and citations collected on campus. Clearly, it is important to fund these services, but rather than making students pay for passes they cannot use, the university should work with the state government to find emergency funding. Colleges and universities in general need financial help during COVID-19-related closures, and parking and transportation services are no exception.
Additionally, if the state provided funding for parking and transportation, future prices for parking passes could be reduced and the department could give citations less frequently.
In a time in which economic prospects are bleak for many students and their families, playing fast and loose with refunds is not appreciated.
PATS’ financial position is understandable, but it should not have promised refunds it cannot provide.
Jared Sellick is a senior majoring in political science.