Transportation a barrier for many community college students

To get to Roxbury Community College in Boston, part-time student Kiara Rosario relies on the city’s Orange Line. It was closed for repairs for 30 days this summer.

“I don’t have a car. I need this transportation,” she said, waiting at a temporary shuttle bus stop outside the college.

The 34-year-old single mother, who is studying to become a social worker, said she usually spends around $90 a month on public transport. “It’s over $1,000 ‘every year’,” Rosario said, “but less than car insurance.”

For the past few years, thanks to COVID, students like Rosario didn’t have to worry about getting to class since many courses were online. But returning to classrooms raises old questions about accessibility. For some, just getting to campus is difficult.

A lack of reliable transportation can prevent working students like Rosario from earning degrees on time — or at all.

“Students today have complicated lives – managing childcare, work, other family commitments,” said Abigail Seldin, CEO of the Seldin/Haring-Smith Foundationwhich maps the proximity of transit stops to community colleges across the country.

His research found that in New England, 20% of community college campuses are not easily accessible by public transport.

“Routes and timetables, as well as the cost of public transport, impact how accessible a school actually is,” Seldin said.

On average, students spend about $2,000 per year on transportation, according to college council.

“For context, a full Pell Grant is $6,000 a year, and most of that is taken up by tuition at many schools, even many community and technical colleges,” Seldin said.

Her foundation is using her findings to encourage federal grants that will help students with transportation costs and to encourage schools without public transit to connect to bus routes.

To pay tuition and rent, Kiara Rosario, a student at Roxbury Community College, said she also worked part-time at a grocery store. Reliable and affordable transport is therefore essential for her.

“The more time I spend traveling, the less time I have to study, work and be with my family.”

Rosario said temporary Orange Line shuttles were about 15 minutes late this summer and were often full. “We only use one door in the shuttle and everyone has to be seated,” she said.

And these delays reduced his study time.

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