Students at the University of Winnipeg can expect a new charge on their tuition statements in September.
Earlier this month, the city transit department sent both the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association (UWSA) and the University of Manitoba Students’ Union (UMSU) the agreement for the U-Pass that City Council supported last March.
The Universal Bus Pass, or U-Pass for short, is a Winnipeg Transit pass which will be included in the tuition of every university student starting this fall. Instead of paying a monthly fee for a bus pass, university students will be able to pay a fixed fee in the beginning of the new school year for unlimited access to public transit services.
“We look forward to working with both institutions and their student unions in the coming weeks to finalize the terms of the agreement,” Alissa Clark, a communications officer with the City of Winnipeg, says.
Emily Epp, vice-president internal affairs with the UWSA, says they are working closely with the university administration and Winnipeg Transit to ensure the program is in place for fall 2016.
“We have received the draft agreement and are in meetings with the U of W and Transit to come up with the final copy as soon as possible.”
The proposed fee for the U-Pass this fall is $260. The four-year U-Pass agreement will see students receive transit passes that will be valid for the whole academic year from September to April. This year the price of monthly bus passes went up a $1.50 to $70.95 from last year’s $69.35.
Students at U of M and U of W are currently eligible for a discounted post-secondary transit pass that costs $70.85 monthly, totalling $566.80 for eight months.
For students like Giorgia Skorletos, who buses to the University of Winnipeg everyday, the U-Pass is a welcome change.
“I really like it because I have to take the bus everyday. I understand the frustration of those that drive but I think overall, there are more students taking the bus,” she says.
However, some students like Nurielle Gregorio, who drives to university, believe the mandatory fee is unnecessary if they don’t bus to campus.
“To add another $200 in our tuition fee is the exact same extra fees like the health fee we’re forced to pay. For someone who doesn’t bus, it’s not fair to have to pay for it when I won’t be getting any benefits from it. I just hope they gave us a choice rather than making it a part of our tuition.”
Epp explains there are opt-out options for two types of students – those who live outside the city of Winnipeg and registered Handi-Transit users.
“The mandatory U-Pass program was passed by an overwhelming majority of voters in a referendum question in the 2014-2015 byelection,” Epp says.
“We’ve been hearing from students throughout the year that this is something they’re looking forward to, and as the Students’ Association, this is a top priority. We know that the U-Pass will save students hundreds of dollars, and are really looking forward to having this student-led initiative become a reality in the fall.”