As gas prices rise, USC students and faculty members are having to make sacrifices, such as rationing food, in order to pay for their car’s gas.
Gas prices in Columbia have risen more than $1 per gallon since March 2021, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA).
"Just stopping by a store around campus and getting myself a snack, it's like, 'Oh, I need to save that money for gas,'" Abigael Goutier, a first-year biology student, said.
Goutier works at the Starbucks in Thomas Cooper Library and said she often debates what they can sacrifice to fill up their tank before their next paycheck.
“Sometimes I literally cannot afford to go home until my next paycheck,” Goutier said. “And sometimes I do have to wager, ‘Should I buy groceries, or should I spend the $20 on gas that I need to go get groceries?'"
Rationing food is one of the more common changes students have made to free up money for their gas tanks. Eliminating fast-food runs and even going hungry are among the accommodations students said they made.
“When basic necessities like gas rise, while I understand it’s important … it’s really inconvenient,” third-year English student Syd Sandford said. “I have to sacrifice [food] daily, so I can put juice in my car so it can go.”
Many students and faculty members work multiple jobs, which has an immense impact on how much gas is used.
“I have to get gas every week, if not get half a tank randomly throughout the week,” fourth-year exercise science student Cameron Perkins said. Perkins is a full-time student, works two jobs and drives an hour away for an internship required to graduate.
“I was going to quit my weekend [job], but ... with gas prices increasing, I can’t quit any of my jobs,” Perkins said.
South Carolina’s current average for regular-grade gasoline is $3.94, up 46 cents since last month, according to the AAA. Diesel fuel, on the other hand, is up to $5.01, a $1.09 increase from last month.
“It’s a major hit to my pocketbook,” anthropology professor Jonathan Leader said.
Leader said although the diesel prices have hurt his wallet, the pandemic has helped curb his spending on extracurricular activities.
“It’s not exactly a silver lining, but it is a lining,” Leader said.
Another solution to avoid paying for gas is to reduce the amount of day-to-day driving, especially on unnecessary trips. For college students, this sacrifice takes a toll on their mental health.
“(Driving) does make me really happy to just, like, belt and sing ... it just puts me in a really good mood," second-year nursing student Logan Purdum said. “Now I’m a little more conscious of it, so when … I’m bored, I try to steer away from getting in my car.”
For many students, using their car only when necessary has taken the joy out of driving.
“It makes me hate going places, so I know if I’m going to get in my car, then I have to go to work,” Perkins said.
To lessen how much they have to pay for gas, Purdum and Madilynn Joseph, a first-year nursing student, share the responsibility of driving.
Though many on campus said they're unsettled to see the prices rising, most people said they feel change is out of their hands.
“It’s not like people are going to stop driving either,” Madilynn Joseph, a first-year nursing student, said.