U-Pass Program Terminated
In November of last year, all eligible full-time students at Sheridan were invited to vote in a U-Pass Referendum, jointly hosted by the Sheridan Student Union (SSU) and Sheridan College. The referendum was held to determine if students were in favour of establishing a non-refundable ancillary fee to adopt a Universal Transit Pass (U-Pass). The SSU and Sheridan College successfully reported a voter participation rate of 25%, with the majority of voters in support of the U-Pass implementation.
As a result of this vote, Sheridan Student Union has been committed to implementing the U-Pass authorized by Sheridan students in last fall’s referendum. However, since that time, the Ontario Government introduced a new program in January 2019 called the Student Choice Initiative. This new policy direction affects the abilities of colleges and student unions to collect ancillary fees from college students.
Details surrounding the policy and operational guidelines for the Student Choice Initiative were released on April 1, and clearly indicate that SSU and Sheridan College may not charge a compulsory ancillary fee to support a student transit pass that did not have a “fully executed agreement” in place prior to January 17, 2019. In SSU’s case, our agreement was ratified by students, however it was still in the process of being officially ratified, as planned, by our municipal transit partners. The program was in full development, however was not technically executed.
In acknowledgement of our obligations to comply with deadlines surrounding fees associated with the new Student Choice Initiative, Sheridan Student Union has had no other choice than to terminate our U-Pass program with our transit partners. This means that as of September 1, 2019, Sheridan students will not have access to the Sheridan Shuttle Bus or a U-Pass, as both services will be terminated.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why will the U-Pass no longer be offered to Sheridan students?
In January, 2019, the provincial government introduced a new policy directive called the Student Choice Initiative. This policy affects the ability of colleges and student unions to collect ancillary fees that fund services not deemed essential by the directive. On April 1, we received further operational guidelines from the government, which clarified that transportation initiatives such as the U-Pass are not eligible for inclusion as mandatory ancillary fees, and therefore would rely on a critical mass of students voluntarily opting in to pay the fee to make the program economically feasible.
Will the Shuttle Bus service be continued since the U-Pass is not being offered?
No. Historically, the shuttle bus has been jointly funded by the college and the SSU. The decision was made to discontinue the service as of August 31, 2019, due to budgetary constraints. The U-Pass alternative was developed by the SSU in consultation with municipal transit partners in Halton and Peel regions, and taken to a vote in November, 2018, which saw a 25% voter turnout, with the majority voting in favour of the U-Pass. The recent decision by the provincial government to reduce domestic tuition fees by 10% has exacerbated the financial pressures facing the college.
In addition, the Student Choice Initiative has removed the SSU’s ability to collect fees that would support the shuttle’s continued operation. The college is committed to delivering a high quality educational experience to its students, and our fiscal resources must be directed to ensuring that quality is maintained, while continuing to offer important services including the library, student advisement, accessible learning and co-op, among many others.
When will the Shuttle be discontinued?
The shuttle will be discontinued on August 31, 2019.
Is there going to be a discount for students who take GO/public transit?
There is no additional discount proposed for students who take GO or public transit at this time. We will continue to explore means of providing affordable transit options for our students with municipal transit authorities.
How will students travel between campuses?
Public transit may be accessed on or near each of our three campuses. Students can access these services and use transfers to travel between campuses.
Is there a possibility of Sheridan bringing back the Shuttle Bus service or the U-Pass?
The U-Pass proposal was developed and voted on with the understanding that the Shuttle Bus service was being discontinued due to financial constraints. That decision remains firm. Unfortunately, we are unable to offer the U-Pass due to the provincial government’s Student Choice Initiative, which prevents us from collecting the necessary ancillary fees to support its successful deployment.
What is the Student Choice Initiative?
On January 17th , the Ontario Government made announcements surrounding tuition cuts, OSAP restrictions and a “Student Choice Initiative” that could significantly affect student fees relied upon by student unions across Ontario, including Sheridan Student Union. The Student Choice Initiative will give students the option to opt out of certain incidental fees, which include student union fees for the services and events you have all come to know here at Sheridan.
The SSU board and administration are exploring all options to ensure the impacts of the Student Choice Initiative are well-planned for, and to attempt to mitigate any unintended consequences of this action.
We have been and will continue to work with the College administration to clearly define how the Student Choice Initiative will affect our services and your on campus experience moving forward. As always, our goal is to advocate for your best interests, and to ensure you continue to have access to important SSU resources. We will continue to update students as more clarity is received regarding ancillary fees.