Surging gas prices put financial strain on student travel

Melina Khan, News Editor

As gas prices exceed $4 per gallon in Connecticut in the midst of the Russia-Ukraine war, some Quinnipiac University students say they are concerned about the impact of increased costs on commuting.

“As a commuter full-time student, I need to have gas to go to campus,” said Alyssa Ciarleglio, a first-year elementary education major. “I have to constantly worry about putting in gas and spending my savings.”

According to the American Automobile Association, the national average for a gallon of gas as of March 8, is $4.17, the highest average since July 2008. In New Haven County, AAA reports the average gallon of gas at $4.34, up from $3.72 a week ago. Associate professor of economics Christopher Ball said gas prices have been increasing due to inflation, but the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine has exacerbated oil costs over the last week.

The Mobil gas station on Whitney Avenue in Hamden, Connecticut, charged $4.39 per gallon of gas March 8, amid a nationwide surge in prices. (Daniel Passapera)

“With the Russia-Ukraine situation, suddenly, gas and oil pipelines into Europe are being disrupted,” Ball said. “So you’ve got this high demand period, and suddenly, we’re getting a restriction in the supply of oil in world markets, and that’s just driving up the price of oil.”

The American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers trade association estimated the U.S. imported an average of 209,000 barrels per day of crude oil and 500,000 bpd of other petroleum products from Russia in 2021, accounting for about 3% of the U.S.’s crude oil imports last year.

President Biden announced March 8, the U.S. would be banning energy and oil imports from Russia. Ball said gas prices may continue to spike if countries across Europe follow suit. According to Eurostat, 27% of the European Union’s crude oil imports came from Russia in 2019.

“When Europe also has to back out of (the Russian) oil market and find alternative supplies, now they’re trying to replace (27%) of what they needed in alternative sources, and that drives up demand for all those alternatives all over the world,” Ball said. “That’s what really drives that spike in prices. It’s not just America’s demand, instead, everybody else is trying to do the same thing, too.”

Ball estimated gas prices will reach around $5-6 per gallon if the war in Ukraine continues.

“If this drags on, and we find alternative supplies, then (gas prices will) probably peak over the next month and then fall back a little bit over the coming months,” Ball said. “The only way it goes away quickly is I think if the war in Ukraine stops, and we can resume purchases with Russia.”

Ciarleglio said she is worried about the spike in prices as she relies on her car to get to class. While some students rely on part-time jobs to pay for transportation costs, Ciarleglio said she does not have the same opportunity.

“I cannot balance being a full-time student with having a job, so I cannot make money on the side,” Ciarleglio said. “When my money runs out, I will have no way to get onto campus.”

Christian Nyberg, a sophomore criminal justice major, said the increase in gas prices has made his commute from Cheshire more expensive.

“I drive a truck, so I’m paying almost $134 for my tank and when I’m commuting it makes it hard,” Nyberg said. “It makes it a little bit harder because everything’s more expensive.”

With spring break coming up, Nyberg said increased prices may inconvenience students who are traveling.

“I’m not gonna not get gas, so I’m just gonna have to deal with high prices,” Nyberg said. 

Dylan Albright, a junior business administration major, said the current cost at the pump is similar to that of prices during the Great Recession in 2008. He said he thinks gas prices will influence how people utilize transportation for longer trips.

“I feel that this will push more people to pay a little more to fly to destinations instead of attempting to drive,” Albright said.

While Albright is completing the semester remotely, he said he would be likely to pursue alternate transportation options if he was regularly on campus.

“If I was staying on campus, I would definitely be more inclined to use the shuttles even if this meant I had to change around my schedule,” Albright said.

Ball said students can economize their transportation expenses by carpooling with others or utilizing ride-share services.

“Something like this also always hits the lowest income people the hardest because you have just fewer options, and it’s a bigger piece of your personal budget,” Ball said. “Students are in that category, where students are working part-time jobs and trying to get a little bit of money or some experience, and they have very few options to get around higher gas prices.”