February 12, 2015

U-Pass passes to next phase

10 out of 12 divisions of the University voted in favor of Student Government (SG)’s referendum on U-Pass, a CTA program that provides unlimited rides to full-time students during the school year. Approximately 50 percent of students in the College voted on the referendum, with 55 percent voting in favor.

“I’m incredibly encouraged by the amount of turnout we received,” SG President Tyler Kissinger said. “[T]here’s obviously a lot of very real interest in the issue, and I think this is a fairly commanding margin in the College, particularly given the turnout.”

4,878 students voted in the nonbinding referendum across 12 divisions of the University. The College, Law School, Biological Sciences Division, Booth School of Business, Divinity School Graham School, Harris School, Humanities Division, Institute for Molecular Engineering, and Social Sciences Division all voted in favor of U-Pass; Pritzker School of Medicine and the Physical Sciences Division voted against it. The School of Social Service Administration did not participate, as it already has U-Pass.

The CTA allows universities to join the program by school or division, though all full-time students in participating schools or divisions must take part in the U-Pass program. If approved by the deans of divisions, U-Pass will be rolled into the Student Life Fee and will cost approximately $85 per quarter per student, roughly equivalent to four CTA rides per week. Students on financial aid will have the $85 fee factored into their aid awards.

Kissinger said he thinks the decision of the Office of Financial Aid in the College to subsidize U-Pass for students on financial aid was a major factor in the success of the referendum in the College.

During the three-day voting period, discussion about U-Pass circulated throughout the College, especially on social media. Many students focused on the fact U-Pass would be subsidized for students on financial aid, with some saying that students not on financial aid would effectively subsidize the U-Pass program for students who receive financial aid.

Kissinger objected to this characterization.

“I think by participating in U-Pass you are not subsidizing other peoples’ travel,” Kissinger said. “You pay your own fee, which is for your U-Pass, which you can choose to use or not to use, based on your preferences.”

Kissinger said SG will work with deans of different divisions, who have the final say on U-Pass.