University feels effects of gas prices

This story is part two of a three-part series exploring the effects of high gas prices on the student, University and city levels.

Along with students and members of the community, the University has felt the effects of rising gas prices.

This is especially true for the Office of Recruitment located in the Curris Center.

Roslyn White, associate director-coordinator for African-American recruitment, said gas prices continue to increase, but the Office of Recruitment’s travel budget has decreased.

The University continues to offer regional outreach and is including more states. Alabama is among the newest additions, White said.

“(High gas prices) have been affecting us for several years,” she said. “We’re constantly adding more territories, recently we added Alabama as a regional tuition state, so that’s one more place that we travel to recruit.”

The University recruits from Chicago, Ill., to, now, Montgomery, Ala., she said.

“Typically, if you’re going to rent a University vehicle, it’s about 45 cents a mile, so you’re talking at least $200 if you’re going to Louisville for a day,” White said.

Though the rise in gas prices are affecting the Office of Recruitment, White said the office staff are doing their best to maintain contact with the regions.

“We are trying not to let it affect us, but I find myself saying no to more programs,” she said. “But this is going to have far reaching ramifications for us.”

Despite the lag in traveling to different high schools within the University’s region, White said the recruitment office continues to contact students in other ways.

“We’re not having as much physical contact with students as we have in the past because we can’t afford to travel,” she said. “We do communicate with students in other ways; we email, we have telephones and of course we have print publications we send students.”

White said the increasing gas prices are causing hotel prices and the cost of food to increase as well.

Dickie Turner, assistant director of Transportation Services, said prices for University-rented vehicles has not been raised since 2007.

“Yes, the gas prices have an effect on us, but we have a good fleet, a newer fleet so we don’t have a lot of repair bills and things like that,” he said. “So everything kind of equals out.”

Transportation Services uses three types of fuel: E85 flex fuel, E10 regular unleaded fuel and diesel fuel. Since the first week in April 2011, E85 flex fuel has risen 5 percent, E10 regular unleaded fuel has risen 3.5 percent and diesel fuel has increased by 9 percent.

Because Transportation Services contracts their fuel out, the fuel purchased is 20 cents less per gallon than other stations, Turner said. However, this 20 cent per gallon reduction is not applicable when drivers fill vehicles at gas station chains.

Turner said this is a way in which the Transportation Services has been affected by the rising gas prices.

“Last year we spent $71,000 on credit cards,” he said. “This (fiscal) year, we’re running right close to $50,000 but we have not received our March statement yet.”

Turner said March and April are typically high mileage months and it is expected that the number will increase significantly when the office receives the March statement.

Because Transportation Services has not increased rates, they have not seen a lag in rentals.

The University benefits from members of the Murray State community renting vehicles from Transportation Services because money that is not used for repair parts or refueling is put back into the University, Turner said.

If gas prices continue to increase, Transportation Services will try to ensure rates do not, he said.

“It may be if the price of fuel goes up quite a bit more, then we may not, in order to stay at our same rate, we may not replace some of the vehicles in the near future that we would have if the fuel prices had been low,” he said.

Don Robertson, vice president of Student Affairs, said rising gas prices may have a positive effect on the University.

“On the positive side it could result in some students deciding to now live on campus rather than commute,” he said.

It could, he said, also persuade students to attend a university closer to their home.