According to new data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), gas demand rose from 8.72 to 9.23 million b/d last week. Meanwhile, total domestic gasoline stocks decreased by 4.2 million bbl to 227.8 million bbl. Higher demand and rising oil prices will likely nudge pump prices higher. 

California State University, San Bernardino (CSUSB) grapples with the financial burden of skyrocketing gas prices, a problem plaguing the entire state. As of April 9, 2024, the average price of a gallon in California sits at a staggering $5.370, according to AAA data. This surge disproportionately impacts students and faculty who commute long distances, often averaging 30 miles to reach the campus. The long commutes, once a manageable expense, are now eating significantly into already stretched budgets. Many students rely on part-time jobs or financial aid to cover their living expenses, and the additional strain of gas prices can force them into tough decisions.

The recent spike, attributed to international disruptions and geopolitical factors, places a heavy burden on CSUSB commuters. For many, fueling their vehicles has become a significant expense, impacting their daily lives and financial stability. Students who live further away may be forced to choose between attending all their classes and affording groceries or other necessities. This can lead to academic struggles and increased stress levels.

“Gas used to cost me around $50 a week to get to campus,” says Maria Garcia, a junior psychology student. “Now it’s easily over $100. It’s getting really hard to manage everything with the rising prices. I can’t afford to go to all my classes anymore, unfortunately, and have to miss some. This puts me behind in my studies and adds pressure to catch up on the material.”

The situation is especially dire for those reliant on personal vehicles due to limited public transportation options or inconvenient schedules. Public transportation in the area might not have routes that directly serve students’ homes or campuses, adding significant time to their commutes. Early morning or late-night classes might not be accessible by bus schedules, leaving students with no choice but to drive. The high gas prices are forcing them to consider alternative commuting arrangements, which can be a logistical nightmare.

“I commute daily from Riverside,” says Javier Martinez, a graduate student in economics. “With gas prices this high, I’m seriously looking into carpooling or using public transit. The problem is, finding someone to carpool with who has a matching schedule is difficult, and the buses take twice as long as driving. It’s simply not sustainable to keep spending so much on gas, but finding a good alternative is proving challenging.”

Faculty members are not immune to the financial strain. Professor Greg Gondwe, who commutes from Redlands, worries about the long-term impact on both his personal finances and the CSUSB community. The rising gas prices come on top of existing challenges faced by educators, such as budget cuts and a rising cost of living.

“As educators, we’re already struggling with budget cuts and a rising cost of living,” says Professor Gondwe. “The gas price increase only adds to the pressure, and it could potentially affect our ability to attract and retain talented faculty and staff. If educators can’t afford to live comfortably near campus, they’ll be less likely to consider CSUSB positions. This could have a negative impact on the quality of education we provide to our students.”

With the rising cost of living, CSUSB students and faculty yearn for relief from the escalating gas prices. In the meantime, many are exploring strategies to mitigate the financial impact. This includes carpooling, utilizing public transportation if feasible, or advocating for policies that address the root causes of the price surge. Students might seek out on-campus housing options if available, or look for part-time jobs closer to campus to reduce their commutes. Faculty members might explore telecommuting options or schedule adjustments to minimize commutes.

As the gas price increase shows no signs of immediate abating, the CSUSB community remains vigilant. They navigate the challenges of the current economic climate with creativity and resilience, striving to maintain their academic and professional pursuits.

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