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Why do polytechnic students pay more for transport?

It is an age-old debate, but really, why do polytechnic students have to pay higher transport fares than those in JC or ITE?

It is an age-old debate, but really, why do polytechnic students have to pay higher transport fares than those in junior colleges (JCs) and Institutes of Technical Education (ITEs)? 

After all, all three institutions take in post-secondary school students, who are of similar ages. 

Despite this, polytechnic students pay $97 for a monthly bus and MRT pass, while JC and ITE students pay $52.50 for the same. For a single bus trip, polytechnic students pay up to two dollars while JC and ITE students enjoy a flat fee of 55 cents. 

What is so different about polytechnic students that we have to pay up to almost 400 per cent more than our peers? 

It is a debate between polytechnic students and the authorities that has been ongoing for years.  Recently, Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew (below) said that transport companies will lose $28 million every year if concessions are extended to polytechnic students. 

Obviously, that comment drew flak from netizens. Ngee Ann Polytechnic student, Charmaine Teo, 18, said: "I think the welfare of the people is way more important than the 'profit margin' of these huge companies, that will continue making millions even with the fare reduction." Another Ngee Ann student, Farez Juraimi, also 18, added: "I think a reduction in transport fares has been something we have lobbied for far too long. A lot of people have protested against this and still, nothing much has been done."

Another reason given by these transport companies was that polytechnic students are not eligible for concessionary rates because they are considered tertiary students. But aren't polytechnics, JCs and ITEs all post-secondary education? Some argue that as polytechnic students have more flexible schedules, they are able to take on part-time work and be able to afford more expensive transport fares. However, that is a choice and should not be assumed. 

Youth.SG took to the streets to find out what students thought about the issue. 

So, most find it unfair and it is clear the rationale behind the policy has not been clearly explained. Well, at least we do not seem to understand it. When I graduated from secondary school and made the decision to study in a polytechnic, I remember finding it strange that I was suddenly paying more than what my JC friends were paying. Besides going to different schools, nothing changed. We were of the same age and had similar financial backgrounds. None of us were working. I realised then, that there was something unexplainably wrong with this system.

Over the years, people have come up with several ideas to ease the financial burden for polytechnic students. One way is to increase the fares for JC and ITE students slightly, while revising the polytechnic fares downwards. This way, the profit margin is less affected and students pay similar amounts. 

Another solution, is to set an age restriction on concessionary rates. For example, allow all students to enjoy student transport rates, until they reach 18 or 19 years old. 
Solutions like these have been suggested but none have been implemented. We polytechnic students sometimes wonder if the authorities have put themselves in our shoes. And if they have and still stick to their guns, why not explain it clearer? Surely it is not just about making profit at our expense? 
Image Credits: Associated Press