The Commuter Student Struggle Is Real

Brace yourselves for the ultimate “First World Problem:” being a commuter student. As a Jacksonville native, I have never lived anywhere besides with my family. I obtained my A.A from Florida State College at Jacksonville and am in my final semester at JU. Jacksonville is an amazing city because it has so many colleges and universities in and around it. While this has been a great blessing for me, it has also lead to an interesting problem. I don’t mind the commute too much from the Westside to Arlington and back every day. Sure gas is a little pricey, but that’s a side effect of driving an F-150. No, the worst part about being a commuter student isn’t commuting; it’s the fact that we are an afterthought.

I’m sure if we got all the commuter students together that we could come up with a long list of these problems. But I personally have experienced three main issues on campus because of my commuter status. The first problem is obvious– parking. As previously mentioned, I drive a pickup truck, meaning I can’t turn into a small or crowded spot very well. The lot marked “C” at the front of campus is always full. I don’t even bother parking there. And the weird dirt lot by the football field is a nightmare unless you drive a tiny vehicle, so that leaves the general parking lot by the baseball field. It is the easiest and best place for commuter students to park. That is, until cars with a “Residence” sticker take it over. I am sorry that I believe in walking to class from your dorm or apartment (weather permitting of course. I’m a reasonable person), but every day? I have arrived for 9:30 classes before, on time, and have had to park near the end of the lot, driving past cars with green stickers. Parking at JU in general is not good, but as a commuter student, we only have one safe option; the general lot. When it’s not packed full of residential students’ cars, that is.

My next complaint as a commuter student is the price of food. I know what you’ll say, “Then bring your lunch!” I do. But once a week I need to buy dinner on campus because I don’t have the time to prepare two meals for one day. For these reasons, it makes no sense for me to buy a meal plan. It would be a waste of money. So when I go into Chick-fil-A and want to buy the Grilled Market Salad and I tell them my card is Dolphin, not Flex, I end up paying a little bit more. Same at Einstein’s and the cafeteria. A salad at Chick-fil-A costs me almost ten dollars because of the more expensive prices for it being a Chick-fil-A Express and for not having a meal plan. First of all, I understand that money talks and it logically makes sense. But I have a hard time paying for a salad that has less food and costs me the same amount as a quick service type meal at Disney.

Also, I have had the problem of not knowing what is happening on campus because I commute. Sure we receive emails, but it can be hard to keep up with events on campus when you don’t live there. I think JU needs a better system of compiling all their events to show to students. Maybe a monthly calendar that includes individual organization’s events?

Finally, I have a problem with another food area at JU. Where are the snacks? Nellie’s has been gone for about a year and unless you walk over to Gooding for a candy bar from the vending machine or over to DCOB for (once again) an expensive smoothie, you’re out of luck. Einstein’s has snacks, fruit cups, salads, yogurt, etc., but they close at 4 p.m. Either you buy chicken nuggets as a snack or wait until dinner. Or, you can go back to your apartment and grab something. Oh wait, commuter students can’t do that. We have to be prepared for the eventual mid-afternoon stomach growls by bringing additional food from home. The lack of accessible snacks on campus impact everyone, but from my perspective, it really hurts the commuter students.

Apparently food is important to me; a version of a food problem is half of my rant against commuting. Of course, these aren’t the only problems. If you forget something at home, you either go back for it or if you’re like me and live a half hour away from home, you suck it up. A lot of problems faced by commuter students can be solved by waking up earlier to make sure you have all your supplies or by packing your lunch. But many of these problems are not of our doing, they are the inadvertent doing of JU. I hope a change comes to the administration soon where they think about us commuter students a little more.