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NMSU students struggle to find parking

Parking frustration on college campuses continues to be an ongoing issue and now that college classes have returned in-person, the dilemma has escalated.

An NMSU commuter student parking lot across from Chamisa Village is packed with cars on Monday Oct. 3, 2022. (Photo by Elizabeth Kidd/Kokopelli)

As a commuter student, I have dealt with this issue since the beginning of last year. My freshman year at NMSU was online since COVID-19 was still in full swing, and this year is when I was first introduced to the horrors of commuting.

Before the semester began, I located where my classes would be and the best parking options that are nearby. I wasn’t shocked when I drove up to a full parking lot on the first day of class, however, I was shocked to see the faculty section being almost vacant.

I eventually found a spot in another parking lot that was much farther away from my class.  Thankfully I arrived to my class exactly when it started, but only because I practically sprinted. Even though I arrived to campus half an hour prior to when my class would begin, the tedious task of finding a parking space still almost made me late.

I continue to struggle with the frustrating parking situation on campus and after discussing it with my fellow classmates, I am relieved to know that I am not the only one dealing with this issue.

“Basically, these students are paying to get an education and oftentimes they skip class or have to pay extra just to go to school,” NMSU junior Taeya Padilla said.

As of 2022, 14,628 students attend the NMSU main campus with only 13,500 available parking spaces. There are faculty lots, commuter lots, all-permit lots and free parking lots, however, the free and all-permit lots are practically outside of campus. In addition, there are more faculty parking lots than commuter student parking lots.

“Sometimes [students] even have to park in a faculty spot and risk getting a ticket because they want their education,” Padilla said.

Sadly, this is true. I too have been so late due to not finding a parking spot that I have had to park in a faculty spot to arrive at class on time. I wasn’t surprised to discover a parking citation waiting for me when I returned, and I had to pay the $35 fine, but at least I made it to class on time, right?

Signs posted in NMSU parking lot #40 warn of parking risks on Monday Oct. 3, 2022. (Photo by Elizabeth Kidd/Kokopelli)

After this incident I knew I needed to come up with a new parking plan. I realized there was an all-permits parking lot not too far from my classes and was momentarily relieved t0 finally have a parking space to rely on until … I noticed the sign. Since this parking lot is near the baseball and softball fields, there is a sign establishing that the university is not responsible for vehicles that could potentially be damaged by a baseball or softball.

Kate Brannan, a senior at NMSU, says she has dealt with parking struggles since she started attending the university.

“The biggest issue that I have with parking is that there is always faculty parking that is never being used, especially behind the chemistry building. It’s something I’ve always been annoyed at,” she said.

Faculty and staff are crucial to our university and provide us with our education, therefore they deserve to have a parking spot as much as anyone else. However, when there are multiple faculty parking spaces unoccupied, it is frustrating for students who are scrambling to find one.

NMSU communications professor Gabriela Morales says as a faculty member she sometimes struggles with parking, but not nearly as often as students.

“Having been a student not that long ago, I know that on different campuses it’s just a nightmare for students to find parking. So that’s definitely something that’s changed as a faculty member, but I do recognize that it can be an issue,” she said.

Students at the University of Texas at El Paso pay almost $400 for an annual parking permit while students at NMSU pay $79 for an annual parking permit. While NMSU permits are significantly cheaper, students should still be guaranteed a parking spot for paying any amount.

Michelle Carbajal with the NMSU Parking Department confirmed that the monetary profits made from faculty and students purchasing parking permits go toward maintaining the campus parking lots. She also explained that inflation has caused some difficulties.

According to officials at the NMSU Facilities and Services Department, plans for building more  parking lots have not been discussed.

I propose that profits be used to acquire more parking lots on campus, or possibly consider making the number of faculty parking spaces equal to the number of faculty members. This would allow more spaces to be designated as student parking spaces in order to alleviate stress for students and eliminate the requirement for commuters to pay for parking that is not guaranteed. 

The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this article belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to New Mexico State University, the NMSU Department of Journalism and Media Studies, Kokopelli, or any other organization, committee, group or individual.

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