UPass Renewal on Main Campus Only: El Centro and Carruthers, Take a Hike

Full-Time students having to find other ways of resolving their Upass situation

Leslie Lozada, Editor in Chief

At the start of the Spring semester of 2023, some full-time students were unable to receive their Ventra U-Pass within the first week of the semester. 


Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) is one of several participating universities involved in the Upass program to provide college students in the Chicagoland area with access to Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) services, such as the “L” train, and buses. On the NEIU website, full-time students receive a Upass on a Ventra Card that is given to them by the university for the spring, summer and fall semesters. There are ways to waive the $155 pass fee, but there are specific requirements to do so. 


“I couldn’t tell until I was scanning on the bus and it wasn’t allowing me to come on.” – Clay Cofre


The Independent reached out to the email provided by NEIU for the Upass program, with no response. Two students who spoke with the Independent also stated that they have not received a response through email. One such student, Clay Cofre, the Editor in Chief of Seeds, NEIU’s student literature journal, tried calling the phone number provided by NEIU, to no avail. 


During winter break, Cofre and some of their other staff members came to the main campus on a regular basis to manage Seeds and to hand make the journal’s issues. They used their Ventra pass for that, as well as work before the semester started. In the first week of classes, they noticed that the pass was not active on their card.


“And I thought that maybe it was just like a glitch in the system, because we had not been provided with any information that it had to be physically turned on.” Cofre said, “After about a few days of basically wasting my own money… I looked online at the Northeastern website, and tried to call the people in charge of the Upass activation. That phone number no longer exists, so I don’t know why it’s still on the website.” 


Cofre finally received their Upass activation four weeks into the semester. They did not receive any information about reactivation until three weeks into the semester. “The only reason I was able to reactivate it, is because I spoke to someone else who had a similar issue, and they gave me the information that I had to check into the Help [Welcome] desk, to have to reactivate it. And now it’s working, but it’s just frustrating that the university didn’t provide any information regarding that reactivation process.” 


They and other students had to go to the Welcome Desk on the main campus for workers there to manually reset the card, as confirmed by the current Executive Director of the Student Union and Campus Recreation, Andy Dutil.


“The Welcome Desk would be the only location currently.” – Andy Dutil


Students who primarily attend El Centro, which is by Avondale and Logan Square neighborhoods and the Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies in Bronzeville, would have to travel to the main campus in order to have their cards reset.


The Independent reached out to the Student Union about the ongoing situation. Dutil said, “We have had some technical issues with the student roster upload to the CTA UPass portal. Students who are currently enrolled full-time may not be showing up as registered. Due to several vacancies across the university, some process knowledge was lost in transitions and the error was not discovered until students reported issues.”  Dutil also mentioned, “If students are experiencing issues with their UPass, we encourage them to come to the Welcome Desk during business hours where a staff member can reset the card manually. The Welcome Desk also offers complimentary seven-day CTA passes to any full-time student who may be experiencing UPass issues to be used until their card is reactivated.”


One student who heard this information, Jasmine Rodriguez, tried to get the complimentary 7-day pass a week after the semester started. Rodriguez, a senior copy editor for the Independent, emailed the Upass email about her pass not being activated the same day that classes started for the spring semester. The day after, Rodriguez went to the Welcome Desk, to see why it was not working. “At first they told me it was a system error, and so they would have seven-day passes.” She came back to the Welcome Desk the second week of the semester, when she was informed that there were no seven-day passes. She came back a third time to the Welcome Desk, and needed to pull up her class schedule on her phone to verify that she was a full-time student, for staff at the Welcome Desk to manually reset the card.


“This was the first time that it ever occurred to me, having this problem whatsoever.” Rodriguez started going to NEIU in the fall of 2021. She had her pass activated three weeks into the semester.


“The NEIU UTS (University Technology Services) and SUECS (Student Union, Event and Conference Services) teams are currently working with CTA to resolve this issue and hope to have things worked out soon.” Dutil said.


It is currently unknown how many full-time students are affected by this. The university has made no official statement, either through targeted announcement emails or other channels, since the start of the spring semester.