One of the greatest challenges facing many of today’s college students may be something other than earning good grades, balancing activities or paying tuition. Recently, commuter students have had increasingly greater troubles doing something that comes before any of those; getting to school.With gas prices now consistently topping three dollars a gallon, the weight on the shoulders of the commuter student is greater than ever, but there may also be an unseen impact on colleges and universities. Many schools that offer on campus housing but also have a high percentage of commuter students, such as St. John’s, may see many students who would otherwise be commuters seeking housing, due in part to the high price of gasoline. With only 2,766 of 20,346 total students currently living on campus, and on-campus housing already running short, this could prove to be a major problem for the University.”It definitely had an impact on my decision to live at school,” said Joseph Lawlor, a sophomore legal studies major who grew up in the Suffolk County town of Farmingdale but decided to live on campus. “It was hard deciding whether or not to live on campus, and with gas prices going the way they were, and are, it was something I didn’t want to have to deal with on a daily basis.”Farmingdale is about a half hour drive from the Queens campus.Aside from being a factor in the decision of whether or not to commute, gas prices are also taken into account more than ever in the decision of what type of car a student will buy.Kate Volpe, a recent high school graduate who will attend Stony Brook University next year as a commuter, said that gas prices heavily influenced her decision to buy a 2001 Ford Focus, which she said gets about 30 miles per gallon.”It was definitely something I had to think about,” she said. “I knew I was probably going to be a commuter, so I had to get a car with good mileage.”Although gas prices have fallen slightly and are relatively stable for now, many experts predict that they will either increase or stay the same throughout the summer and into the coming school year.”There are enough indicators out there that could lead us to the conclusion that our trend of lower prices may be at an end,” said Paul Gonzalez, a spokesman for the Auto Club, a roadside assistance organization, in an interview withThe average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline in New York is currently $3.20, compared to $2.93 nationally, according to the Web Site newyorkgasprices.com. Those prices just one year ago were $2.37 and $2.21, respectively.As great as they are, the worries of Americans over gas prices are overshadowed by those of the residents of many European countries, where already high prices are bolstered by high taxes on the sale of gasoline. The average gas price in France, for instance, is about $5.80, but without taxes, it would cost only about $2.15.Experts say that a number of factors contribute to the recent high prices in gas, which are nearly double what they were in 2000. Aside from higher than ever demand, political factors have caused a rise in prices.