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The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

It’s too soon to tell if NIU’s parking changes will be enough

Angelina Padilla-Tompkins
Peter Campus Life Building’s new parking signage stands with campus in the background. Senior Columnist Lucy Atkinson questions whether the new parking changes will be enough for students. (Angelina Padilla – Tompkins | Northern Star)

Starting this semester, NIU is introducing multiple changes to the university parking lots aimed to make parking more accessible for students. While this is clearly a positive change, it seems likely parking will remain a struggle for many. 

Yellow parking lots – available to commuters – will now share accessibility with some lots that were previously exclusive to blue parking permits – available only to NIU staff. 

Ideally, this change will make finding an available parking spot easier for students who drive to campus. 

However, Brianne Jankowski, junior acting major, and Meghan Karasch, senior biological sciences major, noticed no improvement to their typical parking struggles.

“It’s still rough right now because I still struggled to find parking this morning,” Jankowski said. “They need to add more spaces for parking because what they have, even with adding, like making it blue and yellow, it’s still not going to be enough because there’s so many commuters. There’s just so many students.”

One day into the semester may not reflect the full change the new lots will create, but finding a parking spot isn’t the only issue many students have with NIU parking. There’s also the obstacle of cost. For instance, standard student parking permits range from $40 to $92, all for a permit that, as many students experience, provides no guarantee of timely parking, according to NIU’s permit rates. 

Students also face housing, book and meal-plan costs alongside tuition, often with only low-paying or part-time jobs to support them. 

The 2023-2024 parking lot changes will continue the transition from coin-operating meters to AMP mobile pay. This is an obvious improvement from scrambling for hidden quarters in your coin purse, but parking will still result in additional fees NIU students must face.  

We must appreciate the hard work of NIU faculty – for America certainly doesn’t pay its educators enough – but, we must also acknowledge that, more often than not, the financial struggles of our students far exceed those of our staff. 

Driving an hour each day to campus, Karasch explains that in previous years she’d often observe faculty-only parking spots that were rarely filled, even as she struggled to find her own spot in time for class. The price of permits doesn’t feel justifiable.

“I just feel like if you’re a commuter, I feel like that should be, I mean maybe not free, but it should be lower or included in tuition,” Karasch said. 

Both she and Jankowski are not confident the new changes will be enough. 

Like a lot of things, it’s a little bit of science and technical assessment and a little bit of art. So you try something, you see what the behavior patterns of the parking demands are and you make adjustments over time,” said John Heckmann, associate vice president of NIU Facilities Management and Campus Services in February. 

It’s good to see such adjustments did ensue; let’s keep it happening. 

As to whether these new spots will be enough; however, we’ll just have to wait and see what NIU students report. Don’t be afraid to continue speaking out. Witnessing some change never means it’s time to stop.  

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