Students at Columbia College Chicago — and select colleges and universities in the city — can now travel around Chicago via public transportation for free with a Ventra UPass. The UPass is a card that provides full-time students with unlimited rides on Chicago Transit Authority during their enrollment at participating institutions. Students can use the card to travel to and from campus or wherever the pass will take them.

Ventra, an electronic fare payment system for the Chicago Transit Authority, Metra, and Pace, replaced the Chicago card in August 2013. The system introduced its partnership with Chicago schools and invented the UPass to provide commuting students with a stress-free way to commute to campus. Students who live on campus and are full-time can also get access to the card. This year, students at Columbia College Chicago signed up for a day in late August to pick up their UPasses which also has a photo and full name of the student on the card. 

The UPass is useable for up to seven years and will work during multiple school terms over its time. Privileges are automatically loaded onto the card by institutions and are good for the length of each semester. Students can use that same card over the years; however, there are some replacement fees, rules, and prohibitions. 

A UPass is solely for one student’s use and cannot be transferred or sold. If this rule is violated, CTA or its employees can confiscate the card, and the student will lose their privileges for a year. The Ventra card site also includes going as far as pressing criminal charges. If your card is lost or stolen, a $50 replacement fee is required. If the card is defective, a replacement is free – but only the first time. Students must travel to the Ventra Customer Service Center at 567 W. Lake St. to fill out a form for the defective card. The center will provide students with a seven-day CTA ticket while students bring the form to their schools, who will then order them another pass. After the first free defective card, there will be a $5 fee to replace the others. 

Diamond Moore, a Junior at Saint Xavier University, looks at the UPass as a money-saver.

“Saint Xavier doesn’t offer the UPass program, but when I was at Daley college, it saved me a lot of money," Moore says. “As a commuter student in the city, you never know when CTA fare prices will increase. The pass provided me with reliable transportation from my home to campus, and I never had to worry about not having a way to get to school.” 

Many participating colleges and universities include the Ventra Upass in their tuition. If you’re a full-time student at Columbia College Chicago and want to opt-out of your pass, you can. Visit the Columbia’s website for more information. Although there are many Chicago schools in the UPass program, all need to provide students with reliable transportation.


Blavity U Ambassador Lashaunta Moore is a Graduate student at Columbia College Chicago, studying entrepreneurship for creatives. With a bachelor’s degree in media communication, she’s also a freelance journalist and digital content producer who enjoys writing about all forms of news.