A new pilot program launched between Ivy Tech Community College and Uber aims to take away a barrier that keeps some students from being successful: transportation.
Through a $250,000 donation from Ivy Tech and $50,000 from Uber statewide, Ivy Tech students now can utilize the funds to use Uber, a ride-sharing service, to get to class should they have no other options.
“Ideally, we want to make sure that we are meeting some of the immediate needs or the barriers our students are facing, and transportation is huge. Especially being a college student, you have other things that come up and challenges, and those things seem magnified when you’re a college student,” said Tashona Jones, director of student success and wraparound lead for the Kokomo campus. “So we know that there’s a lot of barriers in play, and if transportation is one we can assist with in the hopes of almost maybe eliminating it, then that’s something we definitely want to do.”
Jones said the service isn’t designed to be used daily by students who don’t have a car but rather by students in emergency situations or students who have class outside of when CityLine Trolley runs. A good example, she said, is students who have clinicals at 6 a.m. and can’t take the trolley (which runs from 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.) to get to class or students who have evening classes also outside of when public transportation runs.
“A lot” of Ivy Tech students also live in rural areas, Jones said, and she’s looking forward to seeing how this partnership can better accommodate them.
To begin using the Uber pilot funds, students have to meet with Jones, and the rides can be booked through her. All cases are evaluated on a case-by-case basis to determine the need.
“We discuss is this just a one-time deal, or is this going to be ongoing? And if it’s going to be ongoing, that’s a great opportunity for me to partner with the student to find out what other resources may be available to them,” she said. “ … If the person that they ride with falls through, things like that, we’d be able to assist the student, especially if they’re doing really well in their class and missing that class will really hold them back or if there’s an important test or something that they need to be here for.”
The tips already are included through the Uber app set up for Ivy Tech, so the students are not responsible for tipping.
The first student Jones met with to potentially book Uber rides was a student who got a flat tire, and he wouldn’t be able to get it fixed for a week.
“For me and you and us, if we get a flat tire, more than likely we have somebody we can call, or we have insurance where we can get a rental car. We can get to where we need to be, but for some of these students, once something like a flat tire happens, it’s like, ‘What’s next?’ It may take them out of class for a week or two, so in those cases, we want to make sure we have something in place for those students,” Jones said.
Through the pilot program, student success rates will be tracked to determine whether having additional transportation helps students academically. If the partnership is determined to be valuable, after the initial funds run out, Jones said the college will seek philanthropic donations to maintain the service.
Jones said it’s important for students to know that the service exists and that Ivy Tech has ways to help students in times of need.
The partnership comes as part of Ivy Tech’s initiative to promote student success in various ways. Jone was hired at the start of the school year to implement a program called Scaling Up Community College Efforts for Student Success (SUCCESS), aimed at boosting graduation rates for traditionally underserved students.
Through the program, students work with “success coaches” who help them navigate barriers. The Uber partnership, Jones said, will be one more tool these coaches can offer students to help them be successful.
“They get success coaching with an individual coach that acts as a mentor and someone they can talk to when they hit barriers or when they need help connecting to places on campus or the community to help them with some of their barriers and just sometimes just someone to talk to and understand some of the issues they’re dealing with in college that are normal things.
“I think sometimes we need to normalize things for students to say, ‘What you’re experiencing is normal.’ I think sometimes you feel all alone, especially if you’re a first-time college student or if you’re somebody who just goes to school, goes to work, and goes home. You may feel like some of the issues and things that you’re facing are your issues alone, and I think having that success coach really eliminates that feeling,” Jones said.
Students who remain in good academic standing and meet with their coaches twice a month receive a $50 gift card.
For more information on how to use Uber through Ivy Tech or to be a part of the SUCCESS program, call Jones at 765-252-5463 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.