When sophomore Meg Bosse looked at her USM bill recently she noticed a $100 charge under the line “Transportation Fee.” “I kind of know what it is. It’s for the bus, right?” she asked.

Sort of.

According to the Financial Aid and Student Accounts Office, the fee is used for shuttle bus services, parking garage operations, parking-related renovations, personnel for special events on-campus and snow removal.

But what many students also do not know, according to sophomore social work major and commuter assistant Brian Green, is that the transportation fee also subsidizes discounts for students on Portland’s public transportation system, the Metro. As part of a back-to-school promotional event stretching from Aug. 23 through Sept. 30, USM students will be able to ride both the Metro and South Portland Bus Service for no charge.

During the rest of the year, USM students receive a discount of 75 cents on what is usually a $1.25 one-way fare, leaving students to pick up the remaining 50 cents. Though students at the Maine College of Art and Kaplan University receive the same rate as USM students, South Maine Community College and University of New England students ride for free.

Since 2007, the transportation fee has increased every year by $10 per student regardless of credit hours. The transportation fee is assessed on students each semester on a credit hour basis. The fee is calculated so 0.5 to 5.5 credit hours amount to a $50 fee, 6 to 11.5 credit hours amount to $75, and 12 or more credit hours amount to a $100 fee.

Considering the tough economic times for students these days, sophomore Mike Orlando said the $100 transportation fee is a considerable amount. Orlando voiced concern about how hot and crowded the shuttles can get, and said he preferred carpooling between campuses and only rides the bus if he has to.

Other students also commented on how hot the bus can be.  “My only complaint is that it’s so hot,” said Sam Ellis, a freshman English major. “I know that’s something they can’t really control.”

Fellow freshman Sami Trott and Sophie Vatcher agreed. “It’s hot, but really convenient,” said Vatcher.

“I have a car on campus, but I’d rather take the bus,” said Trott.

Ellis said even if USM provided a shuttle into the Old Port in Portland, he’s not sure if he would just opt to drive anyway.

The transportation fee is one of several fees students have to pay at USM.  Other fees include the unified student fee, student activity fee, course fees, and health fees. Any full-time student pays a  minimum unified student fee of $324, student activity fee of $54, transportation fee of $100, health fee of $80 and possibly course fees ranging between $5 and $500 per course.

Paul Koenig contributed reporting.


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