Students parking in lots designated for those attending the University of Houston’s Sugar Land campus and Wharton County Junior College’s Sugar Land campus, which operates out of UH-Sugar Land, have always been able to utilize those lots for free.
But there will soon be an added fee on student bills.
Emily Messa, UH’s associate vice chancellor and associate vice president for administration, confirmed the UH system is set to implement an annual $285 parking fee for both schools’ students to utilize the public lots. The fee will take effect with the upcoming fall 2019 semester.
“As we transitioned the campus over to the University of Houston, we worked with our parking consultants to understand the current and future needs of the campus,” said Messa, whose department oversees UH Parking & Transportation. “It was determined that we needed to add some infrastructure to the campus, so we’re adding about 250 parking spaces.”
UH spokesperson Chris Stipes said the school undertook a study lasting more than a year and sought advice from engineering consultant Walter P. Moore to determine needs before undertaking the $3-million-dollar investment in a growing UH-Sugar Land and WCJC Sugar Land campus, which is expecting booming student population as Sugar Land and Fort Bend County continue to grow.
“Since parking and transportation is a auxiliary service and is self-sustaining, this required us to charge to use those city services,” Messa said.
Some, however, are not happy with to the change. Bryce Kocian, WCJC’s vice president of administrative services, said two students voiced concerns about the parking fee during a regularly scheduled board of trustees meeting held in Wharton April 16. Those concerns included potential lot availability and overall affordability, considering the fee is an added cost.
WCJC administrators share some of those concerns.
“We are looking at options,” WCJC President Betty McCrohan said. “Wharton County Junior College is always concerned when there is an additional cost for students.”
WCJC administrators said UH has been receptive to concerns and hearing community input. UH held two town hall meetings at its main campus last month, and two more are scheduled for this week – May 2 at 3 p.m. and May 3 at 2 p.m. – at the WCJC Sugar Land campus in Brazos Hall, Room 180.
“It is understandable that the University of Houston is looking to charge a parking fee as the institution grows. We have a long-standing and good relationship with the University of Houston,” McCrohan said. “They remain a good partner in providing higher education in Fort Bend County and they are willing to work with us to limit the impact as much as possible for those who will be charged the parking fee. … The University of Houston has been very agreeable to work with us to determine what can be done.”
To help mitigate effects of a parking fee, Messa said UH will be extending several options to students at UH-Sugar Land and WCJC Sugar Land campuses.
Should students pay for the parking pass and not stay at school for the duration of the year, they can turn in the pass in and be refunded for the unused portion – a process already in place at UH’s main campus.
“We would extend that same process to students at Wharton County Junior College and UH-Sugar Land,” Messa said.
Additionally, the UH system’s COAST (Cougs on Alternative and Sustainable Transportation) program will be available to WCJC and UH-Sugar Land students. This is anincentive program for individuals who carpool or utilize alternative and sustainable options, such as METRO, to get to campus. Under this program, students can go in together on a parking pass in groups of three. They would register in the name of the primary student for a 50 percent discount and divide up the cost, which comes out to $47.50 per community member.
“With this investment, we’re really paving the way to make the spaces more efficient and support the future needs of this growing campus,” Messa said.
Follow The Fort Bend Star on Twitter @FortBendStar