VANCOUVER -- Summer classes start soon for post-secondary students and many will once again be taking their courses online – which has some parents wondering why students are being forced to pay for transit passes.

Post-secondary institutions in Metro Vancouver participate in the U-Pass program, which provides cheap subsidized transit for students. The cost of the U-Pass for a whole term is $173.40. That's about a quarter of the cost of buying a monthly TransLink pass.

However, the parents of a UBC student say it is unfair because their daughter is taking all her classes online yet she is being forced to pay $520.20 for a U-Pass to cover her three-term registration.

“The U-Pass is a good thing but I think during the pandemic it’s just a financial struggle on most students,” said Betty Brodie, whose daughter Bailey recently registered for UBC classes.

Bailey tried to opt out but there was no way she could proceed with the online registration process unless she paid for the U-Pass, which she has no plans to use.

“It shouldn’t be a mandatory thing placed upon them,” said Steve Brodie, Bailey’s dad.

The U-Pass program is a partnership between the province, TransLink and student associations at each institution.

“I can understand the hesitation there as to why that fee is being charged,” said Cole Evans, president of the AMS Student Society at UBC's Vancouver campus.

“We have some contractual obligations that we need to fulfill with TransLink as well as some other student unions that are part of the program,” explained Evans.

Some post-secondary institutions, like Kwantlen Polytechnic University and Langara College, do not force mandatory payment for the U-Pass if students are only doing classes online.

UBC, which has a larger student population, is not doing that.

“It’s important to think of the U-Pass less (as though) you’re paying necessarily just so that you can receive a product but you’re also paying into a system so that other students who are less fortunate are also able to take advantage of transit at an affordable cost,” said Evans.

He added the U-Pass is not just for travelling to campus but is also needed for students to travel to get groceries, to go to health appointments and generally have the ability to move around the region. However, he says this year they are allowing students to opt out if they live outside the Metro Vancouver area, and are offering to help offset costs for those facing financial hardship.

“We’ve been able to achieve a pretty good compromise this year and we’ve had a lot of positive feedback from students because of it,” he said.

The Brodies were hoping there would be a credit for unused passes for the next term but it does not appear that will happen.