UMSU education announces On Track passes13 February 2019
Students experiencing financial difficulties may now be able to apply for a free public transport pass as a result of the University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) education department’s campaign On Track.
In order to obtain a seven day or 30 day On Track pass, students will need to apply to see Vanessa Stanton, the UMSU financial counsellor. Stanton will determine whether the student’s financial need is sufficient to require the use of a public transport pass.
“Travel costs are particularly tough—only 49% of Australian students have no problem meeting the cost of travelling to class. The rest of us struggle,” Education (Public Affairs) Officer Cameron Doig said.
“This initiative will help struggling students attend class, so they don’t fail attendance hurdles or drop out from financial strain. For students cut off Centrelink, left without secure housing, or without enough shifts to make ends meet, this could be the difference between dropping out and staying enrolled.”
The education department approached the state government last December with concerns about students dropping out of university due to financial strain. With services like the food bank, UMSU Legal, and other support services to disadvantaged students, the government recognised UMSU as a legitimate provider of travel passes.
The On Track pass is part of UMSU Education’s larger campaign for more accessible public transport for students.
On Track also aims to extend the Free Tram Zone (FTZ), a campaign that began in 2018. According to Doig, the petition addressed to Melissa Horne, the state minister for public transport, has amassed over 1,300 signatures.
The campaign to extend the zone to the Melbourne Biomedical Precinct is supported by a range of community stakeholders, including the Lord Mayor of Melbourne Sally Capp, the director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research Doug Hilton AO, president of the Carlton Residents Association Ivana Csar OAM, and several deans as well as the vice-chancellor of the University of Melbourne.
According to Doig, this is the first time the University has come out in support of the campaign.
Farrago understands that Vice-Chancellor Duncan Maskell has written a letter to Melissa Horne emphasising the financial strain some students experience, urging the Victorian Government to extend the FTZ as a way of increasing the accessibility of university education.
Other goals for On Track are providing concessions for postgraduate and international students, scrapping PTV-issued concession cards to allow students to use university-issued ID cards, and “[ending] harassment of students by ticket inspectors,” Doig said.