It began normally enough. I’d just finished editing a few stories in Daily Texan basement and was walking towards my car, eager to return to my apartment. As I turned the keys and started to drive off I saw it — a UT parking ticket meticulously lodged behind my windshield wipers. I had a valid parking pass, I’d just forgotten to display it that day. It ended up being a costly mistake.
This is not the first nor last time UT has eagerly meted out parking tickets, and many other students can surely relate to my experience. Of course I usually appealed my citations — and sometimes that even worked. But each time I was confronted with yet another fine for simply driving to the Daily Texan office — and each time UT refused to show even the slightest bit of mercy — I grew increasingly resentful of the way I was being treated. If UT administrators truly want to foster successful alumni who are inclined to give back after they graduate, then they should consider treating its already cash-strapped students as more than faceless, expendable piggy banks.
Parking tickets might be the example I’m most familiar with, but they’re far from the only instances of UT imposing extra fines and fees on students, despite raising tuition. Each time a student requests an unofficial copy of their transcript they must pay the University a cool $20 fee. This is twice what a student at Texas A&M would pay and some universities, even our arch-rival, the University of Oklahoma, charge nothing.
Paying for extra Wi-Fi is also essential for anyone who spends significant amounts of time on campus. Even access to vital services at the University Health Services and Counseling and Mental Health Center are often limited and expensive, forcing some students to fend for themselves instead of seeking help.
On their own, these extra fees might seem insignificant, but when you take into account that the average Texas resident pays over $25,000 a year to attend college here and that over half of UT students receive some form of financial aid, it doesn’t make sense for one of the wealthiest universities in the world to treat its students this way.
While it’s true Texas universities might not get as much public funding as they used to, if we can afford to pay University administrators six-figure bonuses, then I’m sure we can find the money to lower or eliminate some of the costs imposed on regular students. I love the Texas Longhorns as much as anyone else and of course I want to support my school. But when I’m older and in a better financial position to give back, I also won’t forget how it felt to be treated as an expendable source of revenue. Hopefully university administrators won’t forget that either.
Michael Jensen is a neuroscience senior from The Woodlands. He is a senior columnist. Follow him on Twitter @michaeltangible.