Gas prices have continued to stay high, affecting commuter students

Gas prices continue to rise in New York state making it harder on college students. | Photo by Michael Griswold

Oswego, N.Y. – College students are being affected by the current gas prices in New York state. The increase in gas prices is making it difficult for students to make money while commuting to internships, work, or school. 

The majority of college students today do not live on campus. According to Inside Higher Ed, about 85% of college students are commuter students. This means that the majority of college students have to drive to campus to attend classes and other on-campus activities. 

“I lived off campus last semester too, and I was filling my car up about once a month,” Stephanie Genese, a SUNY Oswego student, said. 

Along with commuting to campus, she also drives to Syracuse every week for her part-time job at New Channel 9. According to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, gas prices in New York state are the highest they have been during this time of the year since 2012.

“Now, driving to Syracuse so much, I have to fill my car once a week,” Genese said. “So it definitely has made an increase on how much I spend on gas, and with the gas prices rising, it definitely takes a little bit more of a toll there.” 

According to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, close to 70% of students work while enrolled in college, while close to 60% of students have an internship throughout their time in college. 

“It’s pretty frustrating because most of my paychecks just cover gas, and I’m not really making much money to pay for school. So it’s hard for a college student when you can’t really make much money because it’s spent all on gas,” Katie Tilley, a SUNY Broome Community College student, said. 

For college students, experience is important when entering the workforce. According to College Recruiter, 53.2% of graduating students who have completed an internship have received at least one full-time job offer. 

“Having a part-time job is a great opportunity because I’m getting that introductory level experience before I graduate college,” Genese said. “It’s definitely an important job, but it’s just hard to drive that far three times a week and to be getting paid part-time hours.”

Gas prices in upstate New York are still high, averaging around $3.79 per gallon. The average price has gone down since its peak in the summer; however, there are a lot of factors that come into play when it comes to the price of gas right now. The two most significant factors are supply and demand. 

“In the end, when we observe a price change for anything, including gasoline, there are supply-side factors, which is production, and there are demand-side factors when we’re using it,” professor Elizabeth Schmitt, a SUNY Oswego economics professor, said. 

Gas prices during the COVID-19 pandemic were at an all-time low, with the average price being $2.25 per gallon throughout 2020. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in  2020, gasoline consumption decreased by 14%.

“So from the demand side during COVID, the demand for gasoline, or crude oil to make gasoline plummeted because no one was going anywhere,” Schmitt said. “So then the price plummeted for gasoline as well. And really, we recovered from the pandemic recession was a lot stronger than most economies.” 

However, the strong recovery from the COVID pandemic had a significant impact on the motor oil market in the long run. 

“Demand begins to soar, and supply is not ready to meet it, and so, as a result, prices are going to rise as well,” Schmitt said. “So from the demand side, people are opening up again, people are traveling again, you have an increase in demand.” 

Along with demand, supply struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic because of the lack of demand, while gas companies were still producing and storing their products. 

“Now, from the supply side, even before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which really didn’t help, gasoline prices were rising,” Schmitt said. “During this plummet, U.S. producers really got burned. Because they produced this oil, refine it into gasoline, and you have to put it somewhere, in these giant tanks, and it’s not cheap. So, in other words, no one is using the gasoline, and they got stuck with a giant inventory, and they have to pay to store it, and it was a big mess.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the amount of petroleum was at a near-record level of 535.2 million barrels of crude petroleum stockpiles in the U.S. because of the lack of demand. 

“As the economy started recovering, suppliers realized they got burnt on the falling side, and U.S. producers don’t really up production until the price gets up there and it stays up there,” Schmitt said. “Because production of oil to gasoline in the United States is a higher cost than, say, Saudi Arabia. So the prices have to get to a certain point and stay there until producers do it.”

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, gas prices are expected to ease to an average of $3.57 per gallon in 2023.