Eliminating the U-Pass Program a step backwards for accessible, affordable education in MB

March 6, 2020

WINNIPEG, TREATY 1 TERRITORY – The City of Winnipeg’s Executive Policy Committee’s proposal to eliminate the highly successful UPass program is a major step backward for affordable and accessible education in Manitoba. This groundbreaking program reduced the cost of using public transit for post-secondary students by almost 60% and facilitated a 25% ridership increase on routes to and from the University of Manitoba.

For Manitoba Chairperson Brenden Gali, “Bottom line, access to affordable and accessible transportation is a matter of equity. Eliminating this program will overwhelmingly affect the most vulnerable student communities. International students, disabled folks and those from low income families who are disproportionately from newcomer and indigenous communities will all
feel this cut the hardest”.

In the fall of 2019 the City of Winnipeg’s Standing Policy Committee proposed a $24.50 per term increase to the UPass fee to in order to maintain the program and also expand it to include Red River College students. Just this past month 79% of students at the University of Manitoba and 83%
of students at the University of Winnipeg voted to accept this fee increase and maintain the UPass program. This was a testament to how popular the UPass is; 83% and 90% of University of Manitoba and University of Winnipeg students utilize their passes, respectively.

Having a more affordable transit option is integral for students who lack private transportation and desire a sustainable mode of living. With tuition fees simultaneously increasing each year, the financial burden of post-secondary education has burdened an entire generation with record levels of student debt. This is a crisis that requires action from all levels of government and this year’s city budget will only further deepen the divide of who can and cannot access higher learning in our province.