Brianne Talocka//The Crown Talocka’s parking ticket prevents her from registering for much-needed classes.
Brianne Talocka//The Crown
Talocka’s parking ticket prevents her from registering for much-needed classes.

I’m currently a junior, double majoring in professional writing and mass communications, and minoring in neuroscience. Throughout my past three years at King’s College I’ve had many gratifying experiences; I can honestly say that I’m proud to be a student here.

Unfortunately, like most college students, I’ve also had some not-so-pleasant experiences. Recently I received my first parking ticket for parking in the wrong parking lot. Did I deserve this ticket? Absolutely. I normally park in the lot on North Washington Street, which is about a block away from my apartment in Alumni. One stormy winter night after coming home late from the local Wal-Mart, I decided to park in the Alumni lot directly behind my building. I had several bags of groceries with me, and it would have taken multiple trips on the shuttle from the North Washington lot to Alumni in order to bring everything to my apartment. Knowing this would be rather time consuming, I decided I would rather park behind my building and carry the groceries in myself, rather than inconveniencing the shuttle drivers.

By the time I finished unpacking my groceries, I was exhausted. Plus, it was freezing outside and I figured it would be easier to move my car in morning. I didn’t feel like walking back to my apartment in the hail. I could have called security for a shuttle, but I feel bad inconveniencing them late at night, especially during bad weather conditions. I’ll admit a part of me was also being lazy, but we all are at times, right?

I set my alarm for 7:00 a.m., an hour earlier than usual, to make sure I could move my car before it inconvenienced anyone. After it went off the following morning, I noticed that I had a voicemail from campus security. In the voicemail I was instructed to move my car back to its proper lot.

I dashed outside to find a parking ticket on my window. Immediately I thought, “Great, just my luck, another bill to pay.” The ticket specifically said that I would have 72 hours to pay the fine before it’s overdue. I knew I wouldn’t have enough money to pay the fine within this time period, since I already spent all my money for the week on groceries.

On Friday I received an email stating that because of my overdue ticket, I would not be allowed to view my grades or transcripts, and I would not be allowed to register for my fall semester classes. Withholding grades and transcripts is understandable, but in my opinion, prohibiting students from registering for classes they have already paid for is not. I’m going to be a senior next year. Since I have two majors and a minor, it’s imperative that I enroll in the courses I need. Because of my fields of study, I have more requirements to fill than most students in my grade level.

Immediately after reading this email I called security to give them my debit card number. Of course, it won’t have any money on it until I get paid next week, but I was hoping that the fine wouldn’t be processed until then. When I called, I was told that since the school closed because of the snow, the person I needed to speak to went home and would not be available until Monday. I was supposed to register for classes on Tuesday, and an overdue fine takes three days to be processed. As of now I will not be able to register until Thursday, which means the courses I need will probably be full.

I work two jobs on campus and I also work for a company down on the square. But having to pay for food, gas, car insurance, a cellphone and school tuition means I have little to nothing left over for anything extra. This situation is absurd. I spend thousands of dollars every semester to attend King’s College, and then can’t register for classes because of a parking ticket?

This scenario highlights how colleges tend to overlook the financial burdens placed on students. Most jobs, including the ones available to students on this campus, pay every two weeks. For students living pay check to pay check, any unexpected expenditures can leave them in a bind. Expecting students to pay any type of fine within a 72-hour period is illogical.

Many colleges give students 21 days to pay fines, including parking tickets. This is a much more reasonable expectation. Other schools such as Montclair, Case Western Reserve and Marquette give students a week. The strict 72-hour pay period at King’s is equal to the amount of time it takes an overdue fine to simply be processed. If it could take three full days for something to be punched into a computer system, how can students be expected to come up with money—a more difficult task—within this same time frame?

The minimum amount of time should logically be the typical student’s pay period, which is two weeks. Should students be gradually putting money aside in case they have an unexpected expense? Of course. But what if a student has more than one extra expenditure within the same pay period? What if he or she needs a new book for class? What if he or she has to get a car part replaced? What if he or she needs new glasses because the old ones broke? What if he or she has an unexpected medical bill not fully covered by insurance? Like all adults, college students need to budget money wisely and pay bills accordingly. Even if a student has the money to pay a fine at the time, the strict 72-hour pay period could prevent the student from paying for something more essential.

In addition to providing students a more realistic time period to pay a fine, a more reasonable penalty for over-due parking tickets needs to be put into place. Many colleges won’t prevent students from registering for classes because of an unpaid parking ticket, but King’s is not the only school with this policy. How any institution sees this as sensible is bewildering. Preventing students from registering for classes is a punishment unequivalent to the “crime.”

Just to be clear, the purpose of this article was not to attack the school; it was to discuss important issues surrounding student finances. Not all students can turn to their parents for help with unexpected expenses. Like all adults, some students are also accountable for their own bills, and have to budget accordingly.

King’s is an excellent school and I couldn’t imagine myself anywhere else. It’s given me wonderful friends, caring professors and an overall great education. I have had good experiences at King’s. However, I am surprised that the college that claims to “teach students not only how to make a living, but how to live,” would overlook the reality of student finances. Most students are currently living on minimum waged jobs that only pay on a bi-weekly basis.

The number one reason students come to King’s is for the classes, and as long as those are paid for then other debt to the school should not prevent students from taking them.