Apprentice students left out of U-Pass deal
Apprentice students are omitted from the discount Universal Transit Pass (U-Pass) because they are not considered full-time students. The exclusion has left many apprentices feeling alienated.
“We are here to learn just like everybody else,” said fourth-year plumbing apprentice Scott Adametz.
Adametz said it was upsetting to know that as a trade student, he was somehow defined differently than others.
“For some of us who live outside of Calgary, to get parking out here is trouble enough. So when I see other students getting passes and we are not considered students, that is disheartening,” he continued.
The U-Pass allows full-time SAIT students to hop on the C-train and dozens of city buses all for a price of $117 a semester. Apprentices are not included because of the brief length of their programs, which usually ranges from four to eight weeks.
When asked about the current status of the U-Pass, Calgary Transit spokesman Ron Collins explained that it is SAIT that determines the eligibility of students.
“Apprentice students are not considered full-time students and this is the reasoning we have heard from SAIT,” said Collins.
Yet SAIT’s vice-president of employee and student services, Michael Dyer said it is the City of Calgary that dictates who is eligible and determines essentially every detail that surrounds the U-Pass.
“The city basically says. ‘Here is the contract, sign it.’ We don’t have a major discussion about it. Take the fees that we are telling you that we want. If you don’t like it, then make the decision to not sign the contract.’ It is not what you would call pure negotiation,” he said.
SAIT currently defines a full-time student as one who is attending at least nine hours of on-campus class time per week for 15 weeks within a single semester. Those who are not eligible for the U-Pass include apprentices, students in any program that is less than 15 weeks in a single semester, students taking less than the required hours, alumni and contracted staff, according to the SAIT website.
Dyer pointed out that in order for apprentice students to be granted access to the U-Pass like every other student, every apprentice would have to agree to paying for the pass, regardless of if they were intending to use it.
“That is sort of where it dies,” said Dyer, who doesn’t believe that a majority of apprentices would vote in favour of allowing the inclusion of a U-Pass fare tacked on to their student fees.
SAIT recently signed a two-year extension with the City of Calgary, meaning that any alterations to U-Pass negotiations that could benefit SAIT apprentices won’t be possible until after the 2014 winter semester.
According to the City of Calgary, since 1995 Calgary Transit ridership has grown from 56.3 million to 94.4 million in 2010. The U-Pass was established in 2001.
SAIT fourth-year plumbing apprentice Corey Christians said that many apprentices receive Employment Insurance while attending school so the extra money that they have to fork out for a regular bus or C-train pass can make a notable difference. Christians made the suggestion that a two-month pass should be created so that trades students could utilize it while attending class.
It’s a suggestion that SAITSA vice-president external Matthew Armstrong concurred with because it would eliminate SAIT’s and the City of Calgary’s fear that students would continue to use a discounted pass once they had completed classes.
“My ideal U-Pass system for students is to have a student bus pass. Students that want it can purchase it, and students that don’t want it, don’t have to,” explained Armstrong. The idea would get rid of the current system in which all students pay for the U-Pass regardless of if they plan on using it or not.
Armstrong explained that the students who do not use the pass are essentially supplementing the students that do.
Dyer concurred with Armstrong, explaining that although he is unsure of what the ground rules would be, he thinks there should be a student-rate fee as well that would include apprentices.
“Students do not have the cash right now, but when they graduate, they could develop great habits of using public transportation and when they can afford it, they will be able to pay the full fares. If this isn’t about being a money-grab for the City, then it should be about promoting public transit,” he said.
Dyer was open to a number of the suggestions made by Armstrong, but he was still confident that the current deal that SAIT has laid out serves the present student body justice.
“I think that a U–Pass at the third of the normal price is a smokin’ good deal for the students. The U-Pass isn’t restricted to just going to and from SAIT. It works on the weekends and at nights too.”
For more information on the U-Pass, visit the student resources section of Sait.ca.