Metropolitan State University's new parking ramp

At Metropolitan State University Parking Defeats Education

Susan Klingenberg writes to about an article from 2 years ago: Mis-structuring employee parking charges: An example from a local university, about beleaguered Metropolitan State University. The facts in this letter have been corroborated by Metropolitan State University staff. Relevant documentation can be found in this PDF, compiled from email messages to the Metro State Community: MSParking1.

Metropolitan State University's new parking ramp

Metropolitan State University’s new parking ramp


I was happy to find a past article by David Levinson about the parking ramp at Metro State and how they are charging everyone for it whether they need it or not.

I have been talking to Metro and their attitude is flippant at best. It is outrageous that the students have to pay for this. My daughter has no car, takes the bus, and is being charged $183 this semester for the parking ramp she will never use. No opt out. Told it was all decided by Student Senate. Then I am told that even if we “choose” to take the bus or “choose” to have no car, the ramp is available for our use.

Ridiculous, there is no meaning to that. It seems this is a classic case where the have nots are forced to pay for those who have, there is no choice, no voice, no benefit.

  • And they are getting away with it?
  • How can they take FAFSA [Financial Aid] funds from low income people to pay for a ramp we can’t use?
  • How can it be legal?

My daughter had to drop a class to pay for their ramp she can never use. It’s their attitude, they do not care about anything but feathering their own nest, and if it’s from poor students with no car, they take FAFSA funds to pay for Metro’s new car ramp.

It is just so wrong, tell me how, in any way, can this be right?

Thank you,


Susan K.

Anyone concerned with this might contact the following individuals who are in the chain of command regarding the financing of the parking ramp, or your local legislator.

53 thoughts on “At Metropolitan State University Parking Defeats Education

  1. Steven Prince

    Eagerly awaiting a post dissecting the participants at the next meeting of the Metro State Student Senate.

  2. Eric AnondsonEric Anondson

    Seems like this is tailor made to be cited in any of a dozen future books on funding the parking cult or books on higher education financial shenanigans. I mean forcing income strained poor students to add to their debt load for something they have no ability to even use (because they can’t even afford a car) but justifying it because if they DID buy a car (how, they don’t have money to) then they could use it?

    Ah student senate, you don’t give me hope as a future generation of leaders…

  3. Amber Hamm

    Hello all,

    I am the Student Senate President at Metropolitan State University. As with every story, there are two sides. As some of this article is true (all students do pay with no opt out) some of this is incorrect.

    I advise you, as I have every student who has came with a complaint thus far, to sit down with me in person and allow us to explain the situation. Please email with any concerns or questions and I promise, you will be responded to and the matter will be taken seriously.

    Thank you,

    1. Alex SchieferdeckerAlex Schieferdecker

      Can you not take a few moments to explain your side in this comment section, for the benefit of interested third parties?

      1. Amber

        Yes, I can take a few moments (or more) to explain.

        The buildings were built with Revenue Bonds. The University has to pay the bond and prove a source of revenue to pay for the bond, hence the fee.

        The University was informed by the city that we must provide more parking if we wanted to expand our campus. This means we would never expand without the building. With a increase in enrollment and demand of more courses and programs from the students, it was decided to build a ramp and have an opportunity to expand.

        All students pay the fee because we don’t have a way to know who is or isn’t driving. Yes, there are ways to assist in this; however, no 100% answer to know who is or is not driving. You can not always please everyone. We went with what was best for the MAJORITY of students and the University, and that is to charge everyone. $12 per credit is the lowest possible fee we could charge. Student Senate fought for that. We do not want our students to be any more burdened than possible. If we could have an opt out structure, everyone else pays more. The community is also charged when they use the ramp, as well as, staff.

        Thus, in order to make sure everyone is paying the minimal fee, we charge everyone. We also subsidies bus passes to help with the transportation cost they inquire. However, as a community, it is our responsibility to pay for the ramp that allows us to expand. If a student does not have a vehicle or cannot drive, they could at some point, need to be on campus and have someone drive them. In which, they would park in the ramp.

        If you have further questions or comments, please email the above email as I will not be checking this blog for comments but I do check emails regularly.

        Thank you.

        1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

          Sorry, jumped the gun on my request for your comment below. Please ignore.

          > “If we could have an opt out structure, everyone else pays more. The community is also charged when they use the ramp, as well as, staff.”

          But isn’t “everyone else” those who are actually using the ramp? Why shouldn’t they pay more? Why not have a parking lottery/permit system like the U of M?

          Do you have any sense of what percentage of students drive there?

        2. Mike SonnMike Sonn

          “no 100% answer to know who is or is not driving.”

          Was a parking permit considered?

          “If we could have an opt out structure, everyone else pays more.”

          If you use it, you should pay more to use it. If you don’t use it, you shouldn’t have to subsidize those that do.

          “If a student does not have a vehicle or cannot drive, they could at some point, need to be on campus and have someone drive them. In which, they would park in the ramp.”

          I’m sorry, but that is just ridiculous.

          1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

            Slight devil’s advocate point would be that student union, gym, etc are all amenities that people may or may not use, but all students get assessed a fee to support the cost of.

            On the other hand, something like a gym is much cheaper to provide in that manner, while off-campus options would be a lot more expensive. On the other hand, many students have cheaper transportation options available than driving.

            1. Julia

              Student union and gym don’t require additional conditions (drivers license) be met, let alone paying thousands of dollars additionally to use them (plus parking fees).

              They also provide a benefit to the student body (in terms of cohesion, health); encouraging their use is good. And they are accessible to all students for usage, not just the able-bodied and well-off.

              1. Rachel Q

                Julia, I was thinking the exact same thing. Even a student with a disability could still use certain gym equipment, and the student union, I presume, is a free place to study or hang out. And of course, as you mentioned, there is a physical and social wellness aspect to using these amenities.

                A parking ramp has a high barrier to entry and, as the writer mentions, her daughter will never use it.

        3. Adam MillerAdam Miller

          “If we could have an opt out structure, everyone else pays more.’

          While this is undoubtedly true, it’s difficult to see what’s unfair about asking those who use this parking to pay more. And just as difficult to see why a student who does not use this parking should subsidize those that do.

        4. Julia

          Why not allow an opt-out option for students who don’t have a drivers license? You may not know who is driving (though I’m not sure what you mean by that), but students who are IDing themselves with passports or state IDs because they don’t drive shouldn’t have pay $180/semester (assuming 15 credits) to subsidize a parking ramp they can’t use.

        5. Julie Kosbab

          we don’t have a way to know who is or isn’t driving. Yes, there are ways to assist in this; however, no 100% answer to know who is or is not driving.

          I’m a cake-eater who went to a land-grand university for undergrad, and UST for graduate school. At both schools, we were able to easily determine who was driving by requiring people to either have permits to park in lots during most hours, or requiring use fees (aka “hourly charges”).

          In other words, we made those who were making vehicular choices pay their way.

        6. Walker AngellWalker Angell

          “All students pay the fee because we don’t have a way to know who is or isn’t driving.”

          This statement raises significant questions about the quality of education that people attending Metropolitan State University receive. Nearly every uni I’ve visited, and that’s a lot, have either permit parking or pay-to-park systems. Every one of these can likely tell you within a few percent exactly how many students, faculty, and staff drive. Many conduct routine mode surveys and can tell you how many drive, car-share, ride bicycles, walk, take transit, or use mobility devices. Why is this so difficult for people at Metro State?

        7. Nathanael

          You really need to stop stealing money from students (and faculty, and staff!) for things they don’t use. The tried and true solution is to *actually charge for parking*, like most universities do.

          There is no excuse for charging a “parking fee” to people who never use the parking.

          You say that the city required you to have more parking.

          (a) Does that mean that you didn’t need the parking, and the the parking is in fact unused and half-empty? If so, you really needed to go back to the city and explain why you do not need more parking.

          (b) Is the parking, in fact, very full and busy? Then charging for parking would pay for the bonds.

          1. Nathanael

            For reference, I’ve dealt with many colleges and none of them do it the way Metro State does.

            — Cornell University has a complex permitting system where each lot has its own permits. Nearly all of them charge, at different rates for different lots, and most are for faculty/staff working at specific buildings only. The “guest lots” have meters.
            — Ithaca College has a similarly complex permitting system, again with charges for everyone.
            — Carleton College charges for permits for students, though oddly and unfortunately not for faculty/staff.

            1. Rachel Q

              Even my high school in St. Louis Park required students to buy parking permits every week or quarter. A staff member would walk around the lot each day and check who had their permit on their dashboard. Very simple.

        8. Bill LindekeBill Lindeke

          As a former instructor at Metro State, I rode my bicycle there. All of the classroom buildings are located on major bus lines. Maybe you could offer students either parking OR a subsidized bus pass?

          Also, bike parking on the main campus is decidedly lacking.

    2. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

      I agree with Alex. The purpose of these comments is to promote public dialogue, and I’d like to hear any errors from your perspective here.

      I’d also be curious what the proportions of car commuting students are versus other modes of transportation? If 95% of students are driving, I’m a little more sympathetic.

      1. Amber

        I’m not sure what the numbers of car commuting students versus other transportation are as I do not have those numbers in front of me. I will say since the communication of the parking fee was sent out (a month ago), we have had a small number of complaints from bus goers.

    3. Scott ShafferScott

      I care about this issue, but I’m afraid I don’t have time to travel to St. Paul to discuss this in person.

      Could you summarize the errors in this post, and explain the second side to this story that is omitted here?

  4. Julia

    What about students who have any number of medical conditions that prevent them from driving? I.e. they have in no way, shape, or form made a “choice” not to drive?

  5. Monte Castleman

    Before I dropped out with 5 credits left I went to Normandale, which also had such a fee. I’m sure 95% of the students drove there. It kind of stuck me as unfair, but since I drove it’s not like I could complain about it.

    1. Rosa

      I don’t think MCTC has a parking fee (i’m going to have to check my statements, now) but they have an either-or choice for subsidized transportation – either you can buy a bus pass, or you can get a parking discount. You can’t do both. It seems fair to me (even though trying to predict how I’m going to get around this winter – much less how far into the fall I’m going to be biking before it snows – before the semester starts is difficult.

    2. Alex CecchiniAlex Cecchini

      Your point highlights that Metropolitan State isn’t the only university to do this.

      Interestingly, according to this B3 Benchmarking document, 80% of students drive alone, with 14% taking transit or walking.

      For employees, it’s 100% drive alone!

      I can’t find data on Metropolitan State University, though. I have no doubt a majority of students do drive, but I’m guessing it’s less than the much more suburban Normandale, maybe 60-70%?. A non-zero number of them do so because the marginal cost is zero, and the rest do end up subsidizing the parkers.

  6. Tim

    Wait until you find out that your taxes pay for roads! Or that people without children pay for public schools!

    1. Nathanael

      Educating other people’s kids prevents them from growing up to be as stupid and awful as their parents, so it’s well worth it to pay taxes to do so. 🙂

  7. Eric SaathoffEric Saathoff

    This big issue according to her statement is that the city forced them to have the ramp. Maybe nobody wanted it. If nobody used the ramp, would it be fairer that everyone be asked to pay? If only 10 people, should the entire cost of the ramp be divided by 10? Or if only 1 person, that person alone pays the entire cost?
    I think it is more useful for our incredulity to be directed at the city. What would Metro State have done if given the choice?

  8. Maggie

    As an alumni and former employee of Metro State I can add a shred of light. One of Metro’s biggest problems with parking was that many students and employees opted not to pay the $2.50 flat daily rate to park in the old parking lot. The lot would sit half empty most days (very full at night), and the residential streets would be lined with cars from the university’s students and staff. The neighbors were understandably very upset because they wouldn’t have anywhere to park in front of their own home.

    Additional parking was required before the science building expansion would be approved, so my feeling was that the university/student senate wanted to build the ramp and force everyone to pay so that people would actually use the ramp instead of driving to campus, “opting out” of paying for a permit and continuing to park in the neighborhood. If that was part of their thinking or rationale for their “everyone pays” structure, I can’t say for sure. I do know it was discussed, as was opt out options for non-drivers. The neighborhood issue could have been resolved fairly simply by getting the surrounding streets to be permit required and all residents would get permits from the city.

    Metro State has had increasing difficulty playing well with others, including their own faculty, students and staff. This is just Another decision made without consideration for all these issues that were brought up by students and staff…numerous times. The “powers that be” request input only to completely disregard it in the end.

    At my previous college, before I transfered to metro, I bought a parking permit each semester for $90/semester because I drove. My non driving friends did not. This could have been accomplished at metro as well had anyone cared about equity and doing what is right by their students and employees.

    1. Nathanael

      I see that you have written that the correct solution to “hide and ride” parking is to implement a residential parking permit system for the surrounding streets, as has been done in many places. This seems right to me too. (Alternatively, if you don’t want to subsidize cars for the neighborhood residents, put meters on the street parking.)

      Why the heck didn’t they do that? I guess your conclusion is that they didn’t do that because the administration at Metro State are arrogant ivory-tower types. Which is sad. 🙁

  9. Melody HoffmannMelody

    I have always bristled at my own MnSCU school charging me $30/semester to park in their lot. I take the express bus to school.

    If we want to encourage students to take the bus or bike to school, having them auto-pay for parking is not an incentive. “I’m paying for it anyway,” they may think.

    There isn’t even enough faculty at my school who bus in for Metro Transit to give me a discount bus pass (you need at least 10 employees). Students have all sorts of minds about why they don’t take the bus (yet simultaneously complain about how bad the parking is). So, there is a lot of work to do at my school.

    As someone else mentioned, this is not a Metro State-only issue. And I like the reframing of this discussion to actually be about why schools are being pressured into building parking ramps.

    1. Nathanael

      If they make everyone pay for it anyway, it would make sense for someone who was feeling obnoxious to get a cheap motorhome, park it permanently, and use it as a second office. 🙂

  10. Andrew A

    This issue seems blown out of portion. How is this fee any different from the 50 various mandotary user/collegiate/student class etc fees charged by the author’s home institution – the University of Minnesota? Student fees at the “U” by comparison amount to nearly double that of any MnSCU institution. Let’s take for instance the Transportation Fee $24.00, the Capital Enhancement Fee $75.00 and the associated mandatory $12.50 Stadium fee that students are required to pay per semester at the University of Minnesota (not including collegiate fees, health plans, individual parking, course specific and other various users fees). Also let’s keep in mind the services quoted in the email mention more than merely parking itself, rather maintenance of walkways as well.

    It’s hypocrisy to cry wolf for what amounts to a generalized transportation fee (MnSCU doesn’t have integrated transit operations on the scale the University of Minnesota does). It really goes back to the fact that the legislature has consistently underfunded MnSCU institutions. On a per full-time equivalent basis there hasn’t been funding equity for nearly 30 years (eg U campuses recieve nearly 2x the amount of state funding per student). This parking fee is merely a result of this inherent lack of funding and power. It’s not about “stealing poor students money” as others have stated. In fact, the demographic at Metro State University includes a significantly higher proportion of older, non-traditional students that require ease of access and, yes, parking.

    Now, the bigger matter to those of us interested in urban and regional planning is the issue of campus growth. Metro State was selected as a growth project called the “Metro Bachelor’s Plan” by the Board of Trustees. This plan was intended to address the higher education gap for students who wouldn’t otherwise have access to university coursework in specific fields from the Twin Cities.The problem with this plan is again the lack of support. With an endowment in the $5.6 million range and an operating budget in the $80 million range, it’s is difficult to support the large part-time student population. In contrast to the stated impetus for creating more parking, the long term enrollment growth has been consistently in around 2% for Metro State. The arguement that parking is necessary for growth is purely a political one. Parking isn’t necessary for growth of the campus, per se, and in reality the ability to acquire and actually staff more space is.

    1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

      “How is this fee any different from the 50 various mandotary user/collegiate/student class etc fees charged by the author’s home institution – the University of Minnesota?”

      It’s for parking.

      “not including collegiate fees, health plans, individual parking, course specific and other various users fees”

      It’s not a user fee.

      1. Andrew A

        Gee, and the Transportation, Infrastructure and Stadium fees are not?

        The label says parking, but the maintenance of walkways are not just parking yes or no Adam? It’s absolutely hypocritical to suggest that parking fees are making a MnSCU University unaffordable. By comparison that class of institutions are the lowest cost, most accessible form of higher education. Just for comparison sake tuition and fees for an undergraduate at Metro for school year 2014-2015 is $7,840 and it was $13,480 at the University of Minnesota (again not including those other fees). Rhetorically $198, on average is not breaking the proverbial camels back.

        1. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

          The fact that there are other non-user-fee user fees at MnSCU and UMN schools…
          The fact that a small sliver of this money may go towards non-parking mobility things…
          The fact that college is already so expensive…

          …doesn’t somehow make poor students subsidizing the car storage habits of others a good thing.

          1. Andrew A


            I’m not disagreeing with your conclusion that the fee itself is subdizing unsustainable parking. Recognize, however, it’s an article over a compartively small infraction. Metro State could have just as easily labeled it a ‘transportation’ fee. Then this dicussion would have been moot, save for the fact that the parking isn’t really needed. Which is a more important point. That others actaully point out to Metro State is a tad dramatic considering all the same applies to each of the other (more egrigious) offenders. So, take the good with the bad. In this case MnSCU had the decency to unbundle the cost from tuition.

            I want to just throw this thought out there: is parking accessibility for low-moderate income, non-traditional and/or adult students a public public good worth subdizing in an economy/society that generally doesn’t provide ease of access to higher education to that sector? or does the perverse nature of auto-reliance make that still a no-no?

            1. Aaron Berger

              One major difference is that the U of M pays for transportation with its transportation fee. There are shuttles running across campus 19 hours per day during the academic year and 14.5 hours a day per summer.

              1. Andrew A

                I mentioned this back on 08/18/15. The transportation fee pays in part, for more than transit service at the University of Minnesota. It’s interesting because private institutions just raise tuition to cover the cost of maintaining all structures (including parking) while public institutions have often separated these fees. I don’t see any outrage at them. It would interesting to know what funding is used to actually perform the work to maintain public university parking (is it HEAPR, is it funds from the general fund etc).

                1. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

                  I went to a private institution. And three years when I didn’t have a car on campus, I paid $0 in parking permit fees. And the one year I did have a car on campus, I paid over a hundred dollars in parking permit fees. And yes, I was outraged at the thought of my private university using other revenues to pay for parking capital expenses.

                  Empirically denied on two claims.

                  1. Andrew A

                    Empirically denied? When, did one observation makes a stastically valid hypothesis? What.

                    So, your observation is that you didn’t pay parking fees. Ergo you didn’t pay for campus parking or transportation infrastructure. At. All. Do you think it’s a possibility that permit fees do not always = cost to maintain or build.

                    Let’s try an example, Macalaster College has no fee for parking for eligible students, faculty and staff. Do you think it’s a possibility that the actual cost is included in the cost of attendence and just maybe in tuition and fees?

                    1. Andrew A

                      Sorry there, I re-read your post as saying that you do acknowledge that costs could be included and that you were upset enough to write an article on your own blog about this (not). Also, something about statistical testing of a hypothesis which didn’t make sense.

            2. Aaron Berger

              Additionally, I would guess (although I don’t know) that there is a positive relationship between parking use and ability to pay. The Twin Cities are so auto dependent that the relationship is probably fairly weak, but if it is the case that almost all students drive then the cost of a parking pass shouldn’t be very much more expensive than the cost when shared across all students.

            3. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

              Parking is never a public good. Parking is always a private good. Parking should always have a price. Parking’s price should always reflect its actual cost and its market demand, not anything else. Thus parking should always be decoupled from other transactions including “transportation fees.”

              1. Andrew A

                That’s a vary narrow approach to rationalizing access to place as a cost. We don’t live in a pure market based economy. Without some sort of planning*, we end up with suburban sprawl in rural areas and then end up with Matthias’s articles about new schools being built on the periphery of existing development. As an example, parking for ambulances, police, disaster, MnDOT, and governments be considered are a public good. Even private corporations can be given the rights to public goods. Take for example the railroads, who have are private corporations that are entitled to the use of eminent domain.

                1. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

                  Are mufflers for ambulance/police/etc vehicles a public good? What about the steel used to make them? Or the gasoline to fuel them? No, those are rivalrous and excludable as well… the very definition of a private good.

                  There are definitions for these things: Private goods, public goods, club goods, and common pool goods. They are all different, and they all have specific meaning.

                  Parking is rivalrous and it is excludable, so it is BY DEFINITION a private good. Seriously.

                  1. Andrew A

                    Emergency health services provided in a timely manner is not a public good? Gee we should stop subdizing hospital services? No.

                    We don’t live in a textbook, which is why the economic definition of a public good is not the same as the social definition used to represent the ‘need’ for parking by decision makers. As parking has and can be a pooled resource (as can nearly any common law property). And it is POSSIBLE for parking to be excludable but is socially irrational for it to viewed as such in light of the massive supply (again do we need more parking? No.)

                  2. Nathanael

                    Parking for commercial locations can benefit both the businessowner and *neighboring* businessowners as well as the customers. Under those circumstances it can be a common-pool good for the businessowners.

                    Common-pool goods actually need to be priced (not free) EVEN MORE than ordinary private goods. Giving away private goods is usually harmless; giving away common-pool goods creates a mess.

                2. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

                  Without some sort of planning, like building an oversized parking ramp and passing the costs onto everyone in a community rather than the specific users, we’ll somehow end up with suburban sprawl? Free parking (that is, where the marginal cost to consume car storage is zero) is the answer?

                  Minnesota Citizens for Roads, Asphlalt, and Parking will be glad to hear this.

                  1. Andrew A

                    You based your assertion on the view that we lived in a market-based economy. This should/would exclude government intervention and thus rationale (urban) planning. I can’t argue both for a laissez faire economic policy on a local level, then turn around and argue against it.

                    Luckily, I don’t have to write articles pointing out the ability of the self-regulating market to ‘heal’ itself and other magical wonders circa Milton Friedman to communicate that – that wasn’t the point that I was attempting to make.

            4. Nathanael

              It’s actually not decent to create a mandatory fee and claim it isn’t tuition: I’ll tell you why.

              Tuition is often tax-deductible, has multiple tax breaks associated with it, has numerous forms of scholarships available to pay it, etc. etc.

              “Parking fees” don’t have access to as many deals.

              If you’re going to charge a mandatory fee which every student is forced to pay, it’s actually better for the students if the fee is considered tuition.

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