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Catering to Commuter U: Why CSU-Pueblo needs to cater to commuter students

In the pantheon of Pueblonian artists, there is only one that comes to mind who bridges the chasm between comic books, pawn shops, and punk rock music. Whether he is self-publishing the next edition of the Fat With Glasses comic book, touring with his band, American Mourning, or working at a local pawn shop, John Bueno is hard at work. In his first interview, I sat down with Mr. Bueno to explore his prolific and expanding quilt of work, and to find out what it's really like to be an artist in Pueblo.

You would think Colorado State University-Pueblo would try its hardest to make campus a welcoming place for the commuting students who comprise nearly a fifth of the student body, but that has not been my experience.

As one of 17 percent of CSU-Pueblo’s students who commute from outside Pueblo County, it’s a struggle to integrate into the social life CSU-Pueblo offers.

Don’t get me wrong; I’ve had some individual professors who bent over backwards to work with me because of my long drive. My advisor let me take one class completely online, so I would only have to drive to school two days a week instead of five. But several wonderful individuals can not make up for living the overall college experience or the lack thereof at the CSU-P.

It’s not that CSU-Pueblo never has fun events or never offers activities to take part in; it’s simply that it is difficult for someone who isn’t living on campus to participate in anything.

Most of my classes take place in the morning or early afternoon, as is the case with many universities. Most activities, events, club meetings and athletic events are held in the evenings.

Therefore, if I want to attend an event, I have two options. I can drive all the way home and come back later, or kill three to four hours on campus between classes ending and events commencing .

With gas prices the way they are, making a second trip isn’t usually an option. If I want to attend an evening event, then, it leaves me finding ways to stay busy for three to four hours.

Homework can usually knock out an hour or two, but after getting out of class my brain isn’t normally up to doing any more than that. So with two more hours to kill, what’s next?

Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest are only fun for so long, and there are very few ways to keep busy on or near campus. A game of ping pong or pool might be fun, but the lounges I’m aware of are in the dorms where commuter students don’t have access to them.

I heard once that there is a commuter student lounge on campus, but if that’s true, the university has not publicized it. I have no idea where it is, and I’m sure I’ve looked into finding it more than the average student has.  

The one advantage of being a commuter student is that at least I own a car. The unfortunate students who live on campus without cars are stuck there unless they can get a ride from a friend or try the bus.

There is nothing within walking distance of campus except, well, campus. The drive to the mall or a shopping center or Sonic isn’t too far, but it’s far enough to deter those wanting to kill just an hour between classes.

Even the ways that the school tries to help students who drive aren’t always very helpful.

For example, the commuter meal plan. It sounds great, right? A meal plan engineered specifically for people like me. It seems convenient, until you figure up the math. Each meal on the plan comes out to approximately $8. I’m already paying for gas to get here, so I’ll pack a lunch, thanks.

You might wonder why I don’t move to campus and solve my commuter student woes.  I, as well as many other commuter students I know, just don’t really see the point of living on campus. It saves money to live at home, even when gas shoots up to nearly $4 per gallon.

I don’t have to pay rent or eat out, but those are only a small part of the reason I choose not to live on campus.

If it was really important to me, I could scrape up the money to move on campus and get the “real” college experience. Or could I?

CSU-Pueblo is not known for providing the college experience to which so many students look forward.

The reason so many students don’t live on campus is that most of them already live in or near Pueblo. Of course, there are a few out-of-state and international students, but not many compared to other schools. In some ways, going to class for a day at CSU-Pueblo is a lot like going to a Pueblo Wal-Mart. It’s ho-hum, more of the same.

But, all these things I’ve mentioned–lounges, on-campus activities and bringing in more students- have one thing in common. They all take money.

If CSU-Pueblo starts catering to everyone who wants the “college experience,” there is a possibility that it would do more than make a fun environment for thrill seekers. The cost might go up, and that could in turn change the general makeup of the student body.

Many people I know choose CSU-Pueblo for the low cost, so would adding more “fun” opportunities, such as concerts or a Union Building, exclude many students from enrolling?

One of the main reasons I chose CSU-Pueblo was financial. It was possible for me to get my degree without taking out any student loans, and, so far, I’m satisfied with the education I’ve received.

If CSU-Pueblo starts making changes that make it easier or more fun or offer more activities to stick around on the campus, it might it also change some of the very qualities of the school that made me and others select it in the first place.  

So the question is, what does CSU-Pueblo want to be? Does it want to continue to serve budget conscience locals, but be sneered at by those who go to “real” schools like CSU Fort Collins? Or, does it want to do what it takes to become the “fun” school, at the risk of losing the types of students it now serves?  Or, can it do both? Offer more everyday on-campus amenities for every type of student while retaining current students and attracting new ones.

by Katie England

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