OPINION: Sitting in the conductor’s seat

A senator from DePaul’s Student Government Association weighs in on commuter students, Metra fares and what the university should do.

A+Metra+train+leaves+Downtown+Chicago.+The+suburban+rail+division+of+the+Regional+Transportation+Authority+announced+a+fare+increse+of+roughly+10+percent+that+will+take+effect+as+early+as+February.+%28Photo+courtesy+of+Wikimedia+Commons%29

A Metra train leaves Downtown Chicago. The suburban rail division of the Regional Transportation Authority announced a fare increse of roughly 10 percent that will take effect as early as February. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

It’s no secret that DePaul University is a commuter school – over 90 percent of us commute in some form. In fact, I’m sure many other students currently enrolled at DePaul could relate to my first year: commuting to campus from the suburbs three or four times a week to attend class, which costs about $60 per week.

We rely on public transportation to attend classes, meetings, or activities at DePaul in hopes of maximizing our chances of success in our professional career. It is our mission to engage in public service in order to better the quality of life for one another.

Throughout the course of this school year, a few student senators and I have worked toward finding an affordable route to provide a Metra discount for DePaul University students. The ideal solution should mutually benefit both students and school administrators. As students, we will benefit from a reasonable discount on Metra fares. As administrators, this discount could provide a solution to declining enrollment.

This investment by the university would lead to an increase in enrollment if marketed properly. DePaul University has the opportunity to become the first and only school in Chicago to offer this discount, living up to our reputation as a university of innovation. A student Metra discount would both increase enrollment and retention among the student population while effectively reducing DePaul’s carbon footprint.

DePaul would be seen as an innovator and an institution that truly values affordable access to education.

We are not the only people fighting for this initiative.

On January 22, 2020 Rep. Barbara Hernandez of the Illinois 83rd legislative district filed a bill (HB4217) in the Illinois House of Representatives that would effectively provide a Metra discount to all college and university students across the state.

Ambitious solutions are what this state needs in order to combat the increasing number of students choosing to leave the state instead of pursuing higher education in Illinois. While this bill sounds enticing, it will be a battle to get the votes needed to pass it. Unfortunately, this bill is unlikely to pass any time soon.

The expenses for a statewide student Metra discount would come too quickly after an expensive $45 billion capital bill signed by Gov. Pritzker last year. Now is not the time for us to sit complacently and wait. It is a way to legitimize our ongoing campaign to persuade the administration.

The main problem for DePaul students is that the bill  gives those who favor the status quo the opportunity to remain idle and wait for the Illinois legislature. Instead, DePaul should work towards our own unique solution, which could be DePaul-centered and capitalize on an opportunity to innovate collectively on an issue which is important to the students.

If you are wondering how to get involved as a student, it starts with engagement.

I want to hear your thoughts on this issue. MTowns2@mail.Depaul.edu is the best way to contact me directly if you want to get involved.

In  addition, SGA will soon be hosting an open forum. This is an opportunity for students to be vocal about issues that are concerning them within the University. The forum will be hosted on Feb. 18 at 6:00 p.m. in the Brownstones Annex.

With your support and a high turnout at this event, we can show university administrators where we stand on receiving a student Metra discount. A solution is possible, but we cannot wait for the Illinois legislature. Instead, we need to organize together and demand change.

DePaul University is an institution which stands for accessible education. Let’s show the DePaul administrators that we intend to hold them accountable to that standard.