By Harley Davis, Contributing Writer
It’s a typical Monday morning as I begin my 40-minute drive to UMF, taking the winding and twisting back roads from my home in Oakland to Farmington. Spring has finally arrived and my drive, only a few weeks ago lined with snow banks and slippery roads, is now filled with potholes, warm air, and flocks of birds flying back to their summer homes.
I make this trip to Farmington five days a week, spending over six hours a week commuting to and from campus. The time spent driving equals about half the time I spend in classes at UMF per week. However I’m not the only student making a long drive to campus. According to the university website, while 86% of freshmen live on campus, 50% of UMF students choose to live off campus, whether it be within walking distance or driving to and from school. Nationally, 75% of college students choose to commute to campus instead of living in dorms, according to Complete College America.
According to UMF’s admission page, the cost for full time students to live on campus for one year is $9,334. This price, added to the cost of tuition is one of the main reasons I and other students choose to live off campus. Ashton Harvey, a junior at UMF, chose to commute to save money. “I did the math and my tuition would be cut in half,” Harvey said. “By living off campus I don’t have to have a meal plan, I work to pay my rent and that eliminates some of the overall cost of college and the amount of debt I have.”
While living off campus saves money, it comes with its challenges. Megan Rodrigue, a senior in elementary education, said that even living within walking distance to UMF has its drawbacks. “One thing that has bugged me about living off campus is that I miss out on stuff that is happening or going to happen on campus,” Rodrigue said, “Even though I don’t live on campus I’m still close enough that I would like to feel like I’m part of the university.”
Parking is an issue for all members of UMF, but can be especially frustrating for commuting students. “When UMF hosts events the parking lots commuters usually park in are reserved for the event,” Harvey said, “I spend so much time looking for a parking space that sometimes I am 15 minutes early but end up being late for class.” This issue becomes compounded in the winter, when eventually there is no more space to push all the snow. “Taking up four to ten parking spaces to pile up snow makes it that much harder to find a parking space,” said Harvey.
The Off Campus Commuter Council located in Student Center Room 109 is in place to help and support the commuting students of UMF. Every month the council offers free monthly breakfasts and lunches to students. Commuters are also given the option to rent a locker from the council so commuters don’t have to leave everything in their car during class. The council also helps students find accommodations to stay overnight on campus when the winter weather makes driving home nearly impossible.
As I pull into the commuter parking lot and happily claim the last available spot, I think about the time and money I spend each week driving to school. Is it easier to live on campus? Probably, but I wouldn’t be able to see the rolling fields of green grass in late spring dotted with black and white cows, or the fields of corn golden and shining in the fall, the views that make me thankful I go to college in a beautiful town in Maine.