Parking fee required at Cougar Health Services

Cost of parking lot is about 1-2 percent of proposed $2-3 million WSU Athletics subsidy



“Cougar Health Services primarily was not able to support the $40,000 it costs for free parking because of their budget tightening up this year,” said ASWSU President Curtis Cohen.


WSU students are now required to pay for parking at Cougar Health Services, a cost that used to be free.

CHS made the decision in December 2020 after the cost of upkeep of its parking lot became too expensive, said ASWSU President Curtis Cohen. CHS pays WSU Transportation Services approximately $40,000 per year to manage the lot. 

“This was a collaborative decision between CHS and WSU Transportation Services that was implemented before fall semester,” said John Shaheen, director of WSU Transportation Services.

Last spring, CHS approached WSU Transportation Services about continuing to keep the parking lot exclusive for Washington Building patrons, he said.

Shaheen said CHS was struggling with the budget during the pandemic and could no longer afford to subsidize free parking for the smaller number of patients they were receiving. 

“Cougar Health Services, primarily, was not able to support the $40,000 it costs for free parking because of their budget tightening up this year,” Cohen said. 

The last amount WSU Transportation Services collected from CHS was about $29,000, Shaheen said. However, the $40,000 that CHS projected was only forecasting what could happen if they did not do something about parking in the next few years. 

Cohen said the $40,000 it costs for WSU to provide free parking at CHS is equal to about 1-2 percent of the proposed $2-3 million WSU Athletics subsidy.

There are costs associated with managing the parking lot. WSU Transportation Services stripe, pave and repair the lot when needed, Shaheen said. 

“It takes work to manage a parking lot that is exclusively used,” he said. “It is not a cost-free thing.”

WSU Transportation Services bought a machine for $10,000-12,000 that was set up to offer a pay-to-park system, Shaheen said. 

A parking fine should be the least of a student’s worries during a pandemic, especially while seeking healthcare, Cohen said. 

“Students who are sick or injured shouldn’t have to worry about paying for parking to get treatment at a facility that they are mandated to pay for through their fees,” said Jennifer Madigan, WSU biology doctoral student.

Madigan said she is displeased by decisions made by WSU at the expense of the students.

CHS found that no other university that had health clinics in the middle of campus were offering free parking, Shaheen said.

“Many students have permits, use meters, or park elsewhere on campus and so they are going to CHS on foot,” he said.

Based on that, Shaheen said he does not think the change will be a barrier to students who are receiving medical or mental care.

WSU students who are both physically and academically challenged already have a hard enough time navigating around campus, Madigan said.  

Anyone parking at CHS is required to pre-pay for parking time above 15 minutes. If someone does not pay or does not pay enough, they may receive a parking ticket, according to a statement submitted to WSU Faculty Senate.  

Madigan said hour-long appointments could run much longer or much shorter than expected. She said paying the parking fee is not convenient and potentially confusing for first-time visitors. 

“Parking meters at Cougar Health Services don’t take into account that some appointments either don’t meet or pass the allotted time,” she said.

Without free parking, students will either be forced to pay for a service they are already mandated to buy or use public transportation while ill, Madigan said. 

CHS provides medical and mental health care for WSU students. She said students who are seen regularly for counseling services now may have added anxiety because of the fee. 

Madigan said she continually supports free parking at COVID-19 testing sites to prevent exposure to other members of the community. 

“Using public transportation while ill will expose numerous other students, instructors and members of the community to their illness,” she said.