A lack of aid prevents Gear-Up students from obtaining U-Passes
Essence Boyd — News Editor
Attending a state university has many perks such as being able to go home whenever you please; however, for some students involved in university access
programs such as Gear Up, that is not a luxury they are able to obtain. According to CT Rides, a U-Pass or Universal Transit Pass is a program that gives students enrolled in participating universities access to unlimited local transportation.
Unless students receive additional aid outside of said programs, they are not able to obtain the pass and are required to pay for their own transportation. “Gear-Up students, mostly, are eligible to receive a U-Pass card if they have some kind of financial aid or scholarship on their accounts in addition to the Gear Up Waiver,” said director of Finance Business Applications Todd Mason.
According to the director of University Access Programs, Dawn Stanton, the waiver covers the applicant’s tuition and fees. However there is a program called the Gear-Up three that Southern has nothing to do with.
“The Gear-Up Three is something that comes directly from the state,” said Stanton. “Students get a Gear-Up Three award letter via email; they have to submit that letter to financial aid. When the students submit it to financial aid, then they go ahead and put it on the students account. At some point, the state and financial aid connect to verify who’s eligible.”
After taking into account the Gear-Up Three and other financial aid students may have received, only ten students were found to not be able to obtain a U-Passes.
“Gear-Up students who get some additional aid, in addition to the Southern waiver. So that Gear-Up Three, Pell [grant] and other types of aid – scholarships, would be eligible,” said Stanton. “So now, when you look at the 400 plus Gear-Up students based on that definition of eligibility, there is only ten students from the list that don’t qualify.”
According to secondary education major, Larenzo Maldonado a freshman, and Gear-Up aid recipient, he is aware of the issues his peers are having trying to obtain U-Passes although, when receiving his, he did not encounter any hassle.
“I am well aware on the U-Passes not being available to a portion of students that is under the Gear Up Scholarships,” said Maldonado. “I am not one of those students, when I went to receive a U-Pass they’ve handed it to me right away without any discussion on what scholarship I was under.”
Although Maldonado himself did not have an issue obtaining a U-Pass, he said some of his friends have and without it, they are unable to leave campus.
“From what I’ve heard from my fellow peers that are under the Gear Up Scholarships, some of them are unable to go back home, go to work, or go outside of campus from being denied a U-Pass,” said Maldonado.
Although there are efforts in the works to fix this issue in a way that students will not be turned away from obtaining a pass in the future; Student Government Association voted to obtain passes for those who were not able to get them for the semester. The funding will be coming out of their club budget.
For students who were turned away prior to the Gear-Up Three was accounted for as additional aid, they are being asked to go back and pick up passes.
“[Emails are being sent to] Gear-Up students,” said Mason. “Asking them to come back to the card office to pick up a pass if they were originally turned down because there was no other aid on their account at that time.”