Brookhaven’s DART Student GoPass Reduces Financial Challenges - Higher Education
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Brookhaven’s DART Student GoPass Reduces Financial Challenges

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In an effort to address financial insecurities, Brookhaven College in Dallas is offering students the opportunity to use a Student GoPass to ride the city’s Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) system for free.

Launched in 2017, the district-wide DART Student GoPass program eliminates the cost of transportation for eligible students by giving them wider access to other campuses in the Dallas County Community Colleges District (DCCCD), the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, performing arts events, internships, clinical hours and more learning opportunities beyond the college campus, leaders said.

Dr. Thom D. Chesney

“Brookhaven College already benefits from over 200 DART bus departures and arrivals daily,” said Dr. Thom D. Chesney, president of Brookhaven College. “Through the DART Student GoPass program, more students can get to campus with reliable, safe transportation, and with no additional expenses.”

Chesney added that it was important to bring the program to Brookhaven and the wider community college district because officials “recognize that transportation to and from college is frequently a barrier to starting and completing a college credential.”

The program gives students “one less educational expense to worry about” and “the freedom to attend more than one college to suit their program choice, work and home schedules,” Chesney said.

To receive a Student GoPass, students must have their tuition paid or enrolled in a payment plan, complete the GoPass request form, download the app on their phones and register with their phone number. Students without smartphones may receive a physical pass after applying for a GoPass in their college’s business office.

When a student registers for classes each semester, their GoPass is reactivated according to college officials.

Students who are enrolled in six or more credit hours in the fall or spring semesters and three or more credits in the summer are eligible to participate in the program, as well as eligible Early College High School (ECHS) students. Continuing education students enrolled in 96 or more contact hours in the fall or spring or 48 or more contact hours in the summer are also eligible.

“By design the requirements are linked to student success,” Chesney said. “We know that the closer students get to fulltime student status — 12 or more semester credit hours — the more likely they are to persist to the next term and complete a college credential.”

Brookhaven and other DCCCD schools have a website with a list of locations accessible by DART trains and buses. In addition, students can access DART’s interactive trip planners, bus and train schedules and fare information.

Experts on financial insecurities for college students emphasize the need for college and university leaders to understand how institutional policies and services impact various groups of students on their campus, particularly low-income, first-generation and minority students.

Dr. J. Luke Wood, distinguished professor of education at San Diego State University and co-director of the Community College Equity Assessment Lab, called the DART Student GoPass program “a big win” because it tackles one of the four primary types of insecurities students may face – food, housing, transportation and employment barriers, he said.

Students – more often students of color – who do not have reliable transportation, may have to take multiple buses and travel farther distances to campus, Wood added.

In a 2016 report on housing and food insecurities at community college students, Wood, Nexi R. Delgado and Dr. Frank Harris III found that schools can be intentional in their efforts to support students financially by offering open educational resources, giving access to housing resources near campus and by partnering with community-based organizations to offer social services for students.

Similarly in a 2017 report from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, researchers said institutions can provide financial support to students in need by creating completion scholarships to cover outstanding balances, establishing food pantries or collaborating with public benefits programs to service students through outside organizations.

DCCCD leaders say that the partnership with DART is a vital component to the district’s integrated higher education network that creates a consistent student experience, regardless of where the student attends classes. Further, the partnership for the Student GoPass saves students money, which they can use for other necessary expenses.

“The transportation savings we pass on to students can reallocate for additional classes and educational resources and reduced time to degree,” Chesney said of the GoPass program. “We hope to provide not only greater mobility to college but upward mobility for life.”

Tiffany Pennamon can be reached at tpennamon@diverseeducation.com. You can follow her on Twitter @tiffanypennamon.

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