What is Cornell’s rationale for discriminatory pricing policies for parking?

Date: May 2017


Dear Deans,

I am a graduate student living in Hasbrouck Apartments, a Cornell-owned housing community. Parking at Hasbrouck is by permit only, and permits are sold by Cornell Transportation Services. Strikingly, graduate students have to pay twice the price as employees (e.g., postdocs) to receive the same parking privilege, even though a substantial portion of students living here, including me, are de facto University employees (on assistantship). I think that this is unfair for graduate students, especially considering that graduate students are relatively less economically established.

Similar, though less severe, discriminatory policies exist for other University-owned parking lots. For example, graduate students need to pay about $200 more per year than employees to have an on-campus parking space, even though they commute to campus, at least in part, to perform their assistantship duties.

I am writing this letter to bring this matter to your attention, and I am curious that what is Cornell’s rationale behind this discriminatory pricing policy against graduate students, especially those on assistantships who are performing vital services to the University. Do you believe such policy is justifiable? If not , may I also ask you, as the Dean of the Graduate School, to advocate for us to bring such policy to an end?

Thanks a lot and best regards,

A cost- and equality- conscious graduate student


Dear Cost- and Equality-Conscious Graduate Student:

Thank you for your question.

As you may know, several issues related to parking and transportation for graduate students were identified as priorities in the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly’s (GPSA) strategic priorities, the Graduate and Professional Community Initiative (GPCI). The GPCI Transportation Working Group has achieved several improvements to address the specific needs of graduate and professional students. The Working Group includes staff and graduate/professional student members, and I meet periodically with Transportation staff to advocate for graduate/professional student concerns and get an update on Working Group progress.

Resident parking permits for residents of Hasbrouck (FH permit – $752.86) include OmniRide bus pass privileges. This additional privilege is given only to FH permit holders and not to other student residential permits. The OmniRide student bus pass allows unlimited access to all TCAT buses in Tompkins County, equivalent to the TCAT annual pass (a $600 value). Parking permits associated with housing units (on-campus or off-campus) are not unusual when compared to peer universities or compared to private housing in Tompkins County; the permit fees cover the costs of the parking lot and associated maintenance, but because not all residents have cars the costs are distributed only to those who do. An Ithaca CarShare location was added as an option at Hasbrouck to benefit residents.

As a result of Working Group efforts, the cost of commuter graduate student parking permits in the B-lot on campus was reduced to $359.85 for the B Commuter Permit and B-lot was expanded to include more parking spaces. The B permit is valid at all times in the B lot near the Vet College, and in the north campus A lot after 2:30 p.m. The B Permit annual rate is the same as the Perimeter Tier rate for employee parking permits, and less than the Mid Tier ($575-$752) and Central Tier ($575-$806) employee parking rates.

Short-term accessible parking permits are available to graduate and professional students at the same level of support as for faculty and staff. Efforts have been made to ensure that students with limited mobility receive information about CU Lift and accessible parking. 

The GPCI Transportation Working Group has also been exploring other options, such as additional evening parking without a permit near locations where graduate and professional students spend time for their academic responsibilities, and access for graduate and professional students to the RideShare program.

I hope this information is helpful to you. If you have specific suggestions about how to improve parking-related issues for graduate/professional students, or if you have an interest in serving on the Working Group, please contact Helen Steh hs21@cornell.edu in Transportation Services.

Warm regards,


Barbara A. Knuth
Senior Vice Provost and Dean of the Graduate School