Fact Check: No, Northwestern doesn't prohibit students from graduating if they haven’t paid parking fines

    Updated Aug. 22, 2017: In an email to North by Northwestern, Alderwoman Melissa Wynne acknowledged the correct information about Northwestern’s policy on parking tickets, and said her experiences with other universities was different. “I am a strong supporter of the Parking Amnesty Program and I urge everyone, including NU students to take advantage of it,” she wrote.

    At a meeting of the Evanston City Council Monday night, 3rd Ward Alderwoman Melissa Wynne claimed Northwestern University does not allow students to graduate if they have not paid university parking tickets.

    “I’m sure Northwestern doesn’t let students graduate who owe Northwestern parking tickets. And, so, I think that would be terrific if they would not let their students graduate who owe City of Evanston parking fines,” Wynne said at the meeting, according to the video recording published by the city.

    This statement is inaccurate. According to an email from Al Cubbage, Northwestern’s vice president for university relations, the University does not prevent students from graduating or being awarded a degree because of unpaid parking fines.

    “If a student has unpaid tuition, fees and/or fines totaling more than $500, the University will place a hold on their diploma and transcript, meaning the student won’t receive the paper diploma or be able to have a transcript sent to another university or an employer,” Cubbage said via email. “But even then, the student can still participate in the graduation ceremony and is considered to have received a degree. And once the tuition/fees/fines are paid, the student receives the paper diploma and may have transcripts sent.”

    Alderwoman Melissa Wynne’s 3rd Ward does not include Northwestern’s Evanston campus, which is mainly represented by the 1st and 7th Wards.

    The City Council was discussing the 2017 Amnesty Program for parking citations, where the City of Evanston will waive all additional fees applied to citations and only the amount of the ticket will be due. The program is scheduled to begin August 16 and end September 30, and the City plans to reach out to people with outstanding parking citations through social media and email.

    At the July 24 meeting of the City Council, staff informed the Council that the city’s general fund was expected to end the year with a deficit of over $3.3 million. The city has implemented budgetary changes to reduce expenses and increase revenue, but still projects a shortfall of $205,000.

    The Amnesty Program is part of the City of Evanston’s efforts to raise $100,000 in revenue from increased enforcement of parking tickets. City Council meeting documents show the city plans to meet the remainder of the $205,000 shortfall by furloughing all city employees for one day on November 24, the day after Thanksgiving, so the city can save on wages and salaries for employees.

    Here's a transcript of the relevant excerpt of the City Council meeting, edited for clarity:

    Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward Alderwoman: “At the risk of angering our neighbor, what can we do to capture the ticket revenue for Northwestern students who may live here, who may bring a car here, accumulate tickets, and then leave. Is there – I’d like us to find out what other communities do, who have universities, and whether they’re able to capture that revenue from someone who lives in Evanston and has a Pennsylvania plate that’s a couple of hundred dollars worth of tickets and drives away on graduation day.”

    Jill Velan, parking division manager: “So two things that we will be doing this time is – the first is we have a process that we will pay for through our service provider that they go out to search for new addresses. So it’s not just the address we have on file – they go and get that. Second thing is, we are going to be reaching out to Northwestern to see if they can partner with us about sending out information about the Amnesty Program.”

    Wynne: “Well, I think the Amnesty Program, but I’m also thinking about, you know, I’m sure Northwestern doesn’t let students graduate who owe Northwestern parking tickets. And, so, I think that would be terrific if they would not let their students graduate who owe City of Evanston parking fines.”

    Velan: “I will put that on the list to investigate in the future.”


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