Engineering Major Minh Dao, 27, commutes to El Camino in his minivan and spends $100 a month to fill up his gas tank.
For Dao, paying for parking would have tax implications if he only takes one class per semester.
Since classes are $46 per unit, he says an additional $35 parking fee wouldn’t be worth it.
“I don’t take many classes on campus. So it’s a waste to pay for the whole semester,” Dao said.
With enrollment declining and students adjusting to a post-COVID campus, one benefit was free parking and no citations as long as people park in designated areas at El Camino College.
Although popular with students, El Camino College relies on financial support to make up for lost revenue from parking and other school-related funds.
Local colleges have suffered revenue losses from parking, food services, facility rentals and other programs.
In the 2019-2020 academic year, El Camino’s parking terminals grossed $196,393.
The following year, the parking ticket machines brought in $2,607 — a 98% decrease.
On February 9, 2022, El Camino’s marketing office announced via email that parking permits and day passes would no longer be required for Spring 2022.
El Camino College, Compton, West LA, LA Southwest and Santa Monica have waived their parking fees for the current fall semester.
Compton College offered a $20 parking pass with a daily fee of $3.
West Los Angeles College offered priority parking for $27 and regular parking for $20.
Los Angeles Southwest College charged $20 and a $2 daily fee.
Meanwhile, Santa Monica College has an $85 parking fee for parking on the main campus.
According to the California Community College Chancellor’s Office Datamart, which provides information about students, courses, faculty, staff, etc., El Camino College had 24,354 undergraduate enrollments as of the fall of 2017.
In 2017-2018, El Camino College raised $1,169,179 in parking permits.
In 2019-2020, that revenue dropped to $513,370 — a 56% decrease.
As of now, free parking will most likely remain until spring 2023, and could potentially remain so for a while longer, said Jeffrey Hinshaw, business manager for El Camino College.
“If the state [Chancellors Office] doesn’t come back and digs and tells the district to start charging for parking again, then it’s up to the district to decide whether it wants to do it independently or not,” Hinshaw said.
The goal was to reduce the financial burden on students and increase enrollment by encouraging student participation on campus.
Other initiatives included a tuition relaxation program, ending parking fees, providing more laptops, and encouraging professors to accept free textbooks.
However, across the state and close to home, enrollments at many community colleges have declined during the coronavirus pandemic.
Nationwide, more than 326,315 fewer students were enrolled in autumn 2021 than in autumn 2017.
Many students have yet to re-enroll because they prioritize work and caring for family or loved ones and others have difficulty keeping up with their classes.
According to the California Legislative Analyst’s Office, much of the California Community College’s (CCC) remaining budget comes from tuition, other tuition (non-resident tuition, parking fees, and health services), and various local sources.
The pandemic has had notable tax implications for CCCs and students. This is primarily due to the college’s move to distance learning, which entailed some costs.
These costs for colleges come from purchasing laptops for students and staff, providing training for moving classes online, and purchasing protective equipment for staff remaining on campus.
The Federal Chancellery estimates the costs to total around 350 million US dollars by 2020-2021.
An estimated $58 million was provided to CCCs for enrollment and other reimbursements to students whose classes were canceled in Spring 2020.
Lorena Romero, the State Chancellery’s interim director for fiscal financial standards and accountability, said the federal government has allocated funds to the Emergency Relief for Universities (HEER) that could be used to cover revenue shortfalls.
“As long as HEER funds are available, the loss of that revenue may not affect districts if they use federal funds to cover the losses,” Romero said.
Hinshaw estimates that of the $84 million provided by the CARES Act, about $50 million was used to make up for lost revenue.
This includes the transition to more distance learning, specifically more technology infrastructure to support more servers needed for an online learning environment.
However, there is still revenue from the employee parking spaces provided on campus.
Unlike students, some El Camino College employees have continued to pay for parking, which costs $120 per year.
About 72 spots on campus are explicitly reserved for employees (this only applies to the specially paid spots), while the rest is free for employees and an average of 60 spots are rented annually, bringing in about $7,200.
Before the pandemic, there was a $35 parking fee for student vehicles at El Camino College each fall or spring semester. The daily fee without a parking permit is $3, with a $20 fee for cars per summer or winter session and $20 per semester or session for motorcycles.
A fee of $35 per semester may not be a financial burden for some, but it is on top of other tuition fees.
Extended Opportunity Programs & Services (EOPS) consultant Maria Garcia said the additional fee could negatively impact the students she serves. Many of these students are minority, low-income, or first-generation and have been impacted by the impact of the pandemic, Garcia said.
“While it doesn’t seem like a lot to someone like me or any other student, it can definitely make an impact for our students,” Garcia said. “I can only imagine taking a year off and then paying $35 for a permit or $3 a day.”
Nursing student Yesenia Alvarado agrees after commuting from San Pedro to El Camino.
“It saves me money and I don’t have to worry about parking,” Alvarado said. “It’s easily accessible.”
As the semester progresses and parking remains free, Kerri Webb, Director of Public and Government Relations, reiterates the goal of encouraging student participation.
“At the state level, the Chancellery has directed virtually every superintendent, CEO and Board of Trustees to work with their individual districts and campuses to develop strategies to get more students not just coming to campus, but staying here. ‘ Webb said