The struggles of being a commuter student

Salvador Robles, a senior political science major, commutes from a suburb south of Dallas. On a good day it will take Robles about thirty minutes to make it to SMU. On a bad day, which seems to be most of the time, it will take him close to an hour.

Robles chooses to make this long commute because of how expensive it is to live on and around campus. Robles believes that commuter students should be shown more consideration and given priority when class registration opens.

“Sometimes we get stuck with having to pick 8 a.m. classes, and that is really hard when you commute because of all the traffic,” said Robles.

SMU has a few services in place for commuters, including the Commuter Lot on the outskirts of campus and the Commuter Lounge in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center. These are designated spaces designed for students who commute to campus. Yet some students still feel like they are at a disadvantage.

“The commuter lot is way off campus. It is way off to the side so it doesn’t really help at all,” said Robles.

The commuter lot on a Monday afternoon. Photo credit: Michael Gonzalez

According to SMU’s online facts page, during the fall of 2014 there were 11,272 students enrolled at SMU. Nearly 2,000 of those students live on campus in the residential halls and the SMU Service House. Hundreds of students live in the fraternity and sorority houses or in the apartments adjacent to campus. This leaves thousands of students who commute to campus.

The average apartment rent in University Park is more than $1,600 a month, according to Rent Jungle, a website devoted to real estate data.

Most commuter students do not have the privilege of going back home in between classes and activities, and that’s why SMU created the Commuter Lounge in 1987 when the student center was built. The lounge is a designated area meant to provide students with a place to rest, store some of their belongings and hangout in-between classes and activities. Lockers are available for students to rent, but there is a $20 rental fee per semester to do so.

“I commute from downtown, I take the train so it takes me about fifteen minutes to make it to campus,“ said Joann Osinga.

Osinga is a world language major at SMU. Having previously made a much longer commute from Desoto, Osinga moved to downtown Dallas to help cope with the challenges of living so far away.

“The Commuter Lounge could be a lot better,” Osinga said. “Whenever I would have night classes this place would end up closing sometimes, and I couldn’t even get my stuff. It was bad.”

This semester the commuter lounge is open from 8 a.m. to midnight on Mondays through Fridays.

Students commute to campus for various reasons. Some because of the lack of available housing on campus, others out of preference, and some live with their parents to save money. Whatever the reason may be, commuter students find themselves at a disadvantage. They do not have the convenience of going back to their rooms if they forgot a book or an assignment.

Senior Jordan Silver lived on campus his freshman year but moved off campus his sophomore year due to a lack of housing options on campus. Silver now commutes twenty minutes every day. Even though Silver commutes, he does not use the Commuter Lounge or know of any other services that SMU offers for commuter students.

“I never use the Commuter Lounge. I know there are lockers in there but I don’t even know how to get one. There is no point for me to sit in the Commuter Lounge. It’s nothing special,” said Silver.

The Commuter Lounge is located on the second floor of Hughes-Trigg. Two doors lead into a room filled with outdated couches, chairs, and tables. Stacks of small lockers line the side of the walls. Towards the back of the room are a set of doors that lead into a small kitchen area with one sink and a fridge.

Senior film major Ryan Reed commutes from Farmers Branch every day. When asked about the Commuter Lounge, Reed was unaware of its existence and location.

“We have a Commuter Lounge? I didn’t even know that existed,” said Reed.

Sophomore mechanical engineering major Olivia Asenime commuted from her parent’s house during her freshman year at SMU. She has since moved to downtown Dallas to be closer to campus and avoid being late to class so often.

“I have definitely been late to class a few times. There has always been an issue with traffic; it is always something you have to deal with when you commute,” said Asenime.

Not having easy access to her belongings, Asenime has had to rent out one of the lockers in the Commuter Lounge.

“The lockers are very helpful, but I just wish they were free,” said Asenime.

Asenime added that even though she enjoys the Commuter Lounge, SMU could work towards making improvements to the area.

“I would like to see more things in the kitchen added,” said Asenime.

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