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Columbia College Students Pay Out of Pocket for summer CTA

The University Center in the South Loop. (Photo by Victoria Street/Chicago Talks)
Commuter students pass by the University Center in the South Loop. (Photo by Victoria Street)

Columbia College Chicago does not offer a discounted transit card to students taking summer courses, making it more expensive for commuters already paying higher tuition.

Roosevelt University and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, also in the Loop, did not offer discounted cards, called U-Passes, either. DePaul University and Robert Morris University did offer the student cards during the summer.

“I live in the city but commute downtown,” said Erick Campos, 31, a photography student at Columbia. “I do wish they would offer that because I have to budget aside money, and sometimes it doesn’t work out.”

In March 2013, the Chicago Transit Board expanded its U-Pass program with Ventra, the electronic fare system used by Chicago’s mass transit systems, to include 52 area schools. The U-Pass offers discounted public transit to students while school is in session. But this discount does not extend to all schools for summer semesters. Some schools restrict the passes to full-time students. Others, like DePaul, offers the discount to students taking a single credit hour, said Zallencia Harris, coordinator of Commuter Student Affairs at DePaul. Robert Morris University offers the summer U-Pass but requires students to be registered for 12 credit hours.

“I know almost every other school in the city does it so I don’t see why they wouldn’t,” said Matt Tunney, an operations management major at DePaul University. “It can only help students.”

Mary Oakes, director of Residence Life for Columbia, said only 36 students are living on campus this summer in Columbia’s housing. Oakes said the school doesn’t have access to information about how many of the almost 2,000 students enrolled for classes in the summer of 2014 are commuters because they may be living in on-campus housing that is managed independently of Columbia.

Columbia’s Office of Academic Records lists 146 of those 1,717 enrolled students as full-time—being registered for at least 12 credit hours, including undergraduate and graduate students.

Marcus Copeland, 26, a full-time student enrolled in four summer courses at Columbia said he struggles with paying for transportation. Columbia considers 12 credit hours to be full-time during the summer.

“I think that’s messed up,” he said. “I’m a college student on a budget.”

Molly Hess, Rashmi Shivni and Victoria Street contributed to this story.

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