Student Voice


October 3, 2022


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Higher prices at pump affect commuter students

September 26, 2013

Junior David Zaske fills up his tank after class at the local gas station.
Junior David Zaske fills up his tank after class at the local gas station. Commuter students feel the strain of rising gas prices. The average price for a gallon of gas in Wisconsin is currently $3.43. (Desi Danforth/Student Voice)

According to a recent report from, U.S. drivers spent nearly $3 billion more on gas this past summer than they did the previous summer.

With gas prices naturally fluctuating in price, it has caused students to be more creative with how and where they spend their money, and how they use their cars.

This year there are about 3,784 students who live off campus. The number of commuter students on campus is unknown due to a lengthy and detailed process the University registrar’s office would have to go through.

“In general, we have approximately the same amount of students living on and off campus from year to year. I would say this year, slightly less because we have a smaller student population, as does every UW university,” said Jen Pawelko, Director of Institutional Research at UW- River Falls.

Mike Rice, a sophomore biology major, lives in Stillwater Minn., and drives to school almost every day whether it is in his Buick Lesabre or on his motorcycle.

Rice said that the price at the pump make him more aware of his money.

“Cheap gas is hard to find, and if you spend all your time looking for it, it is not even worth the 10 cents you save in the end, so I’ll usually set aside a set amount of money and try not to buy anything else with my paycheck. It helps to be able to pack your own lunch when you can to help pinch pennies,” Rice said.

In order to help save himself money, Rice tries to spend Tuesday nights at a friend’s apartment in town to help save on gas money, since he has an earlier class the next day.

According to an article from GasBuddy analysts, the highest price this summer occurred July 18, when the national average reached $3.68 per gallon, and the low occurred July 4 when prices slipped to $3.49, a difference of just 18.7 cents.  In 2012, that gap was much greater; 42.7 cents per gallon between the summer’s highest and lowest average price.

“Even with prices remaining more stable this year than last, the average price of gas was almost 4 cents per gallon more for the duration of the summer. Having said that, for the 99 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day this year, Americans collectively spent approximately $2.9 billion more on gasoline this year than they did last year,” said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst. “American households should recover many of the fuel dollars that we surrendered to summer prices.”

On average Rice sets aside $60 a week for gas when driving 25 miles both ways to and from home.

“If I had the means I would definitely get an apartment on campus or near campus so I could walk or bike whenever,” Rice said.

On Sept. 19, a report was released by GasBuddy explaining how gas prices are expected to drop around Halloween by 20-25 cents. With the drop in gas prices just in time for the holiday season, consumers should be recovering many of the dollars they spent over the summer at the pump.

“When we looked at prices from Sept. 19, through Oct. 31, for a five-year period it became clear that the numbers were skewed because of the extraordinary plunge gas prices took in 2008 when they moved from the record peak ($4.12) in July to the record low ($1.61) by year’s end.  In 2008 the price from Sept. 19 to Oct. 31 plummeted by $1.28 per gallon. We’re expecting a much tamer decrease this year,” DeHaan said.

Over the past five years the average price of gas has fallen 28 cents between Sept. 19, and Halloween, but this year it is expected to be around 23 cents when looking at a 10 year average, according to GasBuddy news and senior petroleum analysts DeHaan and Gregg Laskoski.

For more local information or related questions, contact Patrick DeHaan at or 773-644-1427.


Mike Brun on 27 Sep 2013: As a former commuter student (and now commuter employee), I know the pain of gas prices. But, on the flip side, gas prices mean off-campus students could be more likely to stay on campus if there's a gap in their schedule or a class gets cancelled last minute. Some of my best UWRF memories are of wandering around North Hall and the UC trying to kill a few hours between afternoon and evening classes.