College: Summer U-Passes ‘all or nothing’

By Thomas Pardee

Columbia will soon be releasing a survey to gauge student interest in a summer U-Pass, according to Kari Sommers, assistant dean of Student Life.

Sommers said she is in the process of polling last year’s full-time summer school students to see if a U-Pass-to be used during the summer months to travel throughout the city on the CTA-would have been beneficial. She said the survey is in response to several isolated complaints made by students.

Whether the proposition will materialize, however, is still tough to tell.

“We’re not going to impose a student fee without finding out if students are actually interested,” Sommers said.

If students’ reactions to the idea are positive, Sommers said a more official poll will be established and negotiations with the CTA could follow.

Sommers said the U-Pass would only be available to full-time summer school students (taking 12-16 credit hours), who Sommers said number in the hundreds. The proposal would have a limited impact on students, but only full-time students who would benefit from the U-Pass would have to pay for it.

“It’s not an option; it’s all or nothing,” she said. “Either everybody’s in and everybody pays, or no one’s in and no one pays.”

Sommers said many students who enroll in summer school live far out of the city limits, which suggests a Metra discount would help students more. Still, many students who plan to enroll in summer school next year said the availability of a U-Pass would be welcome, as it would help alleviate already high costs of attendance.

“With the economy the way it is, we could really use this right now,” said Matt Iaculla, a sophomore audio arts and acoustics major who commutes on the Blue Line from Des Plains, Ill. to attend class. “I was planning on taking the el, but I was going to have to pay something like $300 to $400 to do it all summer. That’s a paycheck for me, so it would really make a difference.”

Rachel Nadolna, a sophomore arts, entertainment and media management student who commutes from Evanston, Ill. on the Purple and Red lines, said she would be happy to have a summer U-Pass, as it would save her the gas money she couldn’t afford anyway.

“I have a huge car, so I can’t drive down every day or else I would be paying a ton,” Nadolna said. “I would love a summer U-Pass because it’s a lot cheaper, and I can pay for it out of my tuition.”

While the Coalition of Chicago Colleges, including Columbia’s Student Government Association, is working with Illinois lawmakers to extend Metra discounts to college students, a decision has yet to be made. Securing summer U-Passes for students through the CTA would be a much simpler process, Sommers said. The question is whether it’s worth it.

“It’s very doable, it’s just a question of, ‘Should we?'” she said. “What I know is that we shouldn’t if students don’t want it. That’s not appropriate.”

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