OPINION: U-Pass leaves U-Stranded during winter break

It is the beginning of the winter quarter, and members of the DePaul community have returned after a long winter break. However, for many, life in Chicago never paused. Students who stay in the city and students with on-campus jobs need access to transportation. Due to the U-Passes being deactivated, those trying to fulfill their responsibilities face unnecessary difficulty.

In these circumstances, students rely on public transit to get around. Unfortunately, students’ university U-Passes are deactivated during winter break, leaving them to find their own means of transportation. A great deal of stress for college students stems from financial instability, according to studies. Many deal with food and housing instability, along with tuition and other school fees. The U-Pass guidelines need to be reformed so that transportation is not an additional stressor for students.

The Ventra U-Pass provides the user unlimited rides on the CTA as long as they are enrolled as a full-time student at a participating university. For DePaul, the U-Pass is included in the cost of tuition. 

DePaul junior and game day operator Ismail Abdullah had to stay on campus until Nov. 21 for work in housing. 

“For my Game Day Operations job, I typically would take the train using my [U-Pass] to and from there during the quarters,” Abdullah said. “Instead, during break, I had to pay for passes.”

 Freshman Zucchious Rosal lived in their dorm in the Loop campus for three weeks of winter break. 

“I worked during winter break to make ends meet,” Rosal said. “It would have saved me a few dollars to spend on food, but every day I had to take the bus and train. When I got home from work, the process would be the same, train and bus, which totals to $7.50 or $10 every day.”

According to Bob McCormick, DePaul vice president for information services, the U-Pass program’s policies are set by the CTA, and participating schools must abide by them per their contract. 

“The CTA contract does not allow for U-Pass to be available between fall and winter quarters,” McCormick said.  

Despite this, some students feel that the policy does not take the needs of students into account and consider it to be unfair. 

“DePaul students should have access to the U-Pass during winter break,” Rosal said. “I am an immigrant and I am independent. I have no familial support, yet I still want to pursue higher education despite the cost. This could have, at the very least, alleviate some of the stress I personally had to go through every day.”

Additionally, Abdullah and Rosal share the sentiment that the policy makes it difficult for students to find their place in Chicago, something that the university actively encourages. The DePaul website describes the “entire city of Chicago” to be the students’ “college town.”

“I believe all DePaul students should have access to the U-Pass during the winter break,” Abdullah said. “This will help encourage students to stick around during the winter season to learn more about Chicago culture. Like myself, some students may experience financial struggles with paying for [passes] everyday.”

With schoolwork, living expenses, tuition and food costs, college students have a lot on their plates. Being cut off from their usual means of transportation is an extreme inconvenience that students should not have to be dealt with. For students like Rosal, one thing is clear: the CTA U-Pass policies desperately need to be updated to fit the needs of students who use them.  

“They’re removing access to one of the most frequent modes of transportation for DePaul students? Ridiculous,” Rosal said.