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Onward Debate: Bringing Your Car To School

With Penn State located in the middle of nowhere, it’s not uncommon that a lot of students bring their cars to school. A car on campus opens up the opportunity to live far off campus, commute to classes in the freezing cold or a job downtown, and the freedom to run errands without relying on the bus. But is bringing your car to school worth the hassle of being responsible for your car? Two of our staff writers debated the pros and cons.

Pro car on campus — Lexi Shimkonis

While my reason for needing a car at Penn State isn’t because I go home every weekend or work or live far off campus, the convenience makes up for the hassle. I’m a sophomore, so this was the first year I was able to bring my car up, and with my brother graduating high school, there was no need to have three cars at home for only two drivers. Additionally, I have to leave campus at least every two to three weeks in the winter because I work as a referee, so it made sense for me to take my car with me to school.

Because of the way Penn State’s campus is laid out, the student parking lots are pretty far away, situated on the East side of University Dr. and South of the athletic fields. For a lot of students, that means a pretty far walk just to get to their cars when they have to go somewhere, which can be a hassle in that it adds a lot of time to your trip. But being able to drive where I need to go when I need to go there is worth dealing with this. You can take either the Blue Loop or the White Loop over to the lots, so as long as you give yourself enough time, it’s not that much extra effort to get to your vehicle.

Perhaps the biggest benefit to having my car at school is being able to go home whenever you want, not in the sense that you come and go every weekend but instead that when class ends on Friday before Thanksgiving break or your finals are done on Tuesday, you can leave without having to wait for your parents to get done work and come get you or having to ask for a ride from someone who may not even be done until later than you are. Also nice about driving your own car home is that you really have as much space as you need to put your stuff (unless you play taxi and drive all your friends home too). Even with one other passenger, I’m able to just throw whatever doesn’t fit in my suitcase or laundry basket in the trunk and just deal with it when I get home instead of having to force everything into one bag or leave something behind so you don’t travel too heavily, which can be a significant problem when you have to take the bus (don’t even get me started on the other negatives of having to take the bus).

Having your car at school isn’t just nice for big trips, but also convenient for running errands and getting places you need to go. As much as we like to think that everything we’ll need at school can be found in commons or downtown, eventually you’re going to need to go to Walmart or the eye doctor. Without a car, you’re left texting anyone you can think of for a ride or working around the bus schedule. And let’s face it, nobody wants to be the kid on the bus with a 35-pack of water bottles.

Having my car at school means freedom in being able to pick things up when I need to, get around when there’s somewhere I have to be, or just get out of State College when the strictly college town thing starts to feel a little too restricting. Though the hassles of making sure I use my car once a week so it doesn’t die and having to make sure I have time to get to the student parking lot can be annoying, the independence that it grants me makes it way worth it. If have a car that you’f be able to take to school, are willing to pay for the parking pass (the $288/year isn’t even that bad), and don’t mind being asked for rides to the store once in a while, bringing your car to school is definitely the way to go.

You don’t need a car — Mike Reisman

The benefits of having a car are undeniable. It’s always nice to be able to make a Wal-Mart run, or drive yourself home on a break, but one of the great things about this beautiful university, is that you can do everything, and anything you need without a car, and save a ton of money doing it. Sure, the convenience of being able to do your shopping whenever you want is nice, but parking in State College costs entirely too much to justify not just taking a CATA bus, or calling an Uber once in a while. It’s the difference between hundreds of dollars a semester, and maybe $10 or $20 every once in a while, and once you factor in gas costs, any potential tickets, or break downs that can cost hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, and it just makes financial sense to not have a car. I’ve gone two years without having a car, and can count on my hands the number of times I’ve really ever needed one to use one to get somewhere, especially if you’re willing to take full advantage of the bus, taxi, and Uber options. And now that alcohol delivery is a reality, cars are no longer needed to make the ever-important alcohol run before a party.

When you keep a car on-campus or downtown, you also subject yourself to being the go-to friend for all things off-campus. There’s nothing wrong with helping out a friend every now and then, but becoming the token friend for trips to Wal-Mart, a bus station, or just lazy trips across campus become a burden, especially if you’re the only friend with a car. And every time you want to go somewhere, you have to go wherever you parked, which, if you want somewhere cheap normally isn’t close. Most parking lots that won’t break the bank, are either on an extreme end of campus, or an obscure corner of State College, that ironically would be a lot easier to get to by car. With the chance of having your car break down, and having to pay for that, or needing to find a new way to get home if it breaks down right before you go home, simply isn’t worth the benefit of being able to go to Wal-Mart at 3 a.m. if you feel like it.

Plus, without the temptation of driving everywhere, you have no choice but to walk, get some exercise, and work on getting into shape, burning off those calories you drank over the weekend. The extra steps are a built-in way of making sure you get your steps in and stay on track with your fitness goals. And speaking of alcohol, one of, if not the, most important advantages to not having a car is not even having the temptation of driving drunk. In an environment filled with alcohol and bad decisions, not having a car can serve as a potentially life-saving decision, in case of an incredibly poor decision after a night of drinking.

So while having a car may be nice once and a while, in a town as compact as downtown State College, and a campus that requires nothing more than walking, having a car is just an expensive burden.

Let us know what you think in the comments. 

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Posts from the all-student staff of Onward State.

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