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Commuter students feel pinch at pump

      In the past month, it has become clear to every­one on the road that gas prices are on the rise. With the price of gas increasing nearly 40 cents a month, drivers are now spending close to $4 per gallon.

     Many Americans are taking different measures to cut back on how much gas their vehicles are using. A list put out by AAA listed that practicing meth­ods such as controlling acceleration and driving at a slower speed, or driving without air conditioning, and picking better routes are simple methods that have proven to be beneficial to some.

     On TJC’s campus, the inflation for many Tyler residents has done little to affect their lifestyles and their wallets, but for commuter students traveling from surrounding cities such as Van, Mineola, Jack­sonville and Palestine, extreme measures are being taken in order to keep their education and pocket­books on track.

     TJC sophomore Lydia Sullivan puts about $100 of gas into her Ford Escape every week to make her 45-minute trip to campus from her home just north of Mineola. She has already begun making subtle changes in her day-to-day life in order to keep her finances in order.

     “I have to cut back on something in order to pay for gas. Basically, it’s probably going to be food be­cause that’s the easiest thing to cut back on. I mean, it’s not like I can cut back on my bills. It’s just going to be going out to eat less, you know, all that good stuff.”

     While dining out less can be a solution for some students, others have plans to take more drastic mea­sures.

     TJC sophomore Kyle Money spends anywhere from $100-$120 in gas every week to fill his Subur­ban for his 30-minute journey from Van. While he said he’s done a decent job of cutting corners with fast food and his savings account, he has an even bigger change in mind.

     “I’m thinking about getting a motorcycle, the more they [gas prices] go up, the more I want one. If I could get a motorcycle, it would definitely help me out. Then I could just sell it back when I’m not commuting as much, sell it back for as much as I got it. That’d be a plan.”

     The Distance Learning department at TJC is also doing its best to cater to long-distance students and keep money in their pockets. Online classes and hybrid courses are offered to students to decrease the amount of time spent physically on campus.

     “The obvious idea is, if you can spend less time on campus, and making less trips to campus, then you’re going to save money, and that’s what the online and hybrid courses can do for students,” said Director of Distance Learning Ken Craver.

     Online courses through TJC are taken by stu­dents all over the world and eliminate the need for time on campus entirely, while hybrid classes are split between online work and a once-a-week classroom meeting.

     “Normally, I do online classes. I do have three online classes that I’m doing now, but I do have two classes that I have to come here for. Had I known that gas prices were going to skyrocket, I would’ve done all of my classes online,” said Sullivan.

     The Distance Learning department also strives to make sure that students are prepared for the changes that come with taking classes at home as op­pose to in the classroom. By visiting http://www.tjc.edu/de a student can access the R.E.A.D.I. online assessment that thoroughly examines the student’s readiness to take an online course.

     “Obviously online classes are going to be a great way to save money, but there are some problems with that. An online class may be something that some students just aren’t ready to look at yet. It may scare the heck out of them. They [students] may need an instructor and the interaction, or they don’t feel disci­plined enough to work on their own,” said Craver.

     The R.E.A.D.I. assessment is designed to dis­cover the students’ habits, such as whether or not they have the tendency to procrastinate, tests their techni­cal skills regarding what they know about computers and also assesses their learning styles.

     “It really helps them understand what they’re getting into,” added Craver.

     Regardless of which fix commuter students choose, the constant rise in gas prices shows no sign of slowing down in the near future. Students travel­ing long distances to campus do, however, have many different options at their disposal, but ultimately are encouraged to keep the “big picture” in mind.

     “My encouragement would be that their money that they’re spending on gas is not just a wasted cost, they’re investing in their future to ultimately earn that money back,” said Craver.

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