Tonight, College Council (CC) plans to vote on a transportation initiative that addresses student concern over the out-of-pocket expenses surrounding travel costs and car rental. The transportation initiative provides changes that would allow CC to provide greater reimbursement to established student groups for travel costs.
“Not every group has personal cars or is able to find a free college car,” said Francesca Barrett ’12, CC treasurer. “We want to close the gap to the best of our ability so students will not have as heavy a burden.”
Barrett said that because the College reduced its fleet of on-campus cars, there are fewer vehicles available for student use. She explained that because car availability is often prioritized for athletic teams, College cars are often hard to acquire, and because CC funds so many clubs, it is not able to finance clubs’ transportation costs as much as the athletics department is able to fund varsity teams’ transportation costs.
In addition to College cars, Williams Zipcar is another option for students seeking transportation. Zipcar does not charge based on gas usage but instead by an hourly or daily fee. To use a Zipcar, students must pay a $35 annual membership fee and an hourly rental fee that ranges from $8 to $11 depending on which car students rent or a $60 fee for daily rentals. With each rental, students are currently reimbursed by Zipcar for 180 miles per day and charged 35 cents for each additional mile. Barrett said that Zipcar does not reimburse students unless they drive over the 180 miles in a day. Therefore, you are able to drive under 180 miles for a single fee. Because CC funds based on gas and not of the fee, the costs do not line up.
“It is a problem when students are constantly paying out of pocket to be able to pursue their activities,” Barrett said.
In the interest of expanding affordable options, CC has researched different rental services like Enterprise to provide students with additional services. In addition, Barrett added that CC is considering a bus policy for larger groups. CC also plans to continue speaking to student clubs and investigate which issues they deal with in terms of procuring affordable transportation.
“I hope that [this initiative] will be more of an incentive for … student groups to take trips specific to their clubs because they are no longer financially burdened,” Barrett said. Nonetheless, she acknowledged that CC will need to be cautious about how many trips it can fund per club that requests funding.
“We are trying to protect students in this current economic climate from the high costs of their activities,” Barrett said. “I think that if only one student is not forced to pay out pocket for their event, then CC has done its job. What is even greater is that many students will be fully reimbursed in ways that CC has never done before.”
Barrett added that CC is “being fiscally responsible by trying to determine how much College Council can afford to pay for students’ transportation while maintaining the same resources we have to all campus events and club needs.”
Because the reimbursement would come from the Student Activities Tax that all students pay to fund clubs and activities at the College, CC would not reimburse individual students taking trips but rather student clubs for some of their travel expenses.