Eligible students can now opt-in for summer U-Pass


Audrey Champelli

Commuters stand on the Fullerton CTA platform located near the Lincoln Park campus, waiting for incoming Northbound trains.

What used to be an automatic fee deducted from tuition for the summer U-Pass is becoming an optional $86 fee for students enrolled in at least one course. 

Announced earlier this week, only eligible students who specifically opt-in for the U-Pass by July 20 will be charged a fee, meanwhile the rest of students enrolled in summer courses will not face an automatic fee. 

During a typical school year DePaul students spend over $300 on their CTA U-Pass, a non-negotiable fee included in tuition for the academic term. In the past, students who decided to enroll in summer courses would face a similar U-Pass fee. If they didn’t want the U-Pass they could then go through the often time-consuming process of opting out and filing for a refund. 

“Summer was always optional, historically it was an opt-out thing, we just switched it,” said Scott Gass DePaul’s U-Pass specialist. 

DePaul senior Bridey Jones is taking summer courses for the first time this year and is planning on opting-in for the U-Pass. 

“I think I’m definitely going to opt-in just because I also take the CTA to work everyday so I think it’d just make more sense and be a cheaper option overall,” Jones said. 

As a result of the pandemic, remote and online learning options are sticking around at least to some degree at DePaul, meaning that some of the students in those summer courses might not be anywhere near the CTA. Because of this new reality Jones said it’s better that DePaul gave students the choice on the outset. 

“I think it was a good idea to make it an option, because I know not everyone is going to be here for the summer, so what’s the point?” she said. 

Gass said this change is also due in large part to the lasting impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Because of Covid, the CTA has allowed us to opt students out of the U-Pass and make it an optional fee,” Gass said. “We got a lot of feedback that people being charged for a U-Pass and then having to wait for a refund wasn’t very popular with students so we switched it over to an opt-in process.” 

In the summer of 2019, the last year with comparable data because of the pandemic, about 5,000 students used the U-Pass during the summer term. This year, Gass expects less than a thousand students to opt-in. 

The U-Pass fee is calculated using the CTA’s daily rate of $1.25 in addition to DePaul administration fees of 5.3 percent. The cost of the U-Pass can vary year to year depending on available CTA service days, according to DePaul’s website. 

In comparison to the $105 U-Pass that offers students unlimited rides throughout the academic year, the CTA offers non-students a 30-day Ventra pass for the same price.  As such, the $86 U-Pass for unlimited trips during the summer offers students the best value for their purchase.

Last week the CTA announced reduced fares for their one, three and seven-day Ventra passes for the summer in an effort to encourage ridership during the city’s reopening. The change in DePaul’s U-Pass program was unrelated to these efforts, Gass said.