GRCC program provides free access to area museums

GRCC program provides free access to area museums

By -
- Harrison DiCocco

By Karl Blessing – The Collegiate Staff

Many students and faculty are unaware that they can get free general admission to more than five museums and a zoo as part of Grand Rapids Community College’s “Go See GR!” program.

The GoPass can be obtained by all enrolled students and college employees at the Student Life office.

“I think it is a great experience,” said Thalía Guerra-Flores, Assistant Director of Student Life and Conduct. “Students get more enrichment and I think  (the museums visits) also benefit their classes.” Allowing some students to complete class assignments without worrying about the cost of admission to the various museums.

According to Guerra-Flores, the program has been around for roughly four years.

Showing the GoPass along with your RaiderCard at the following locations will grant you free general admission along with some other amenities varying by location:

  • John Ball Zoo
  • Grand Rapids Art Museum
    • Access to member events
    • Wi-Fi in designated areas
  • Grand Rapids Public Museum
    • Wi-Fi in designated areas
    • Faculty access to Community Archives and Resource Center (CARC)*
  • Grand Rapids Children’s Museum
    • Plus free admission for 2 additional guests
  • Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum
  • Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts Gallery Access

“The John Ball Zoo is the most popular destination” for GRCC students and staff as stated by Christopher Remley, Office Manager for Student Life and Conduct in an email interview, “and it is the only destination that is not open year-round.”

The passes expire on June 30 each year, requiring a new one to be obtained for each new year of enrollment.

The Collegiate recently asked GRCC students and some faculty if they were aware of, or used the GoPass. Just under 10 percent or three out of 29 asked were aware or have used it.

“I found out about it from a friend who had gone here before I did,” said Stephanie Spalding, 20 of Rockford, “and she’s like ‘you need to get this.’”

Many students were unaware of the program when asked, “They should give it (GoPass) to you when you get your RaiderCard,” said Gregory Sloan, 18, of Grand Rapids.

The program is funded by the Student Activity Fee (also known as Campus Activities Fee). Students pay a varying  amount depending on the number of credits they are enrolled in. For students enrolled in less than nine credit hours this fee is $5, $10 for students in rolled in nine or more credit hours.  

The Student Activity Fee also provides funding for a number of other student services according to Remley in an email response:

  • OrgSync website
  • Extra allocations requested by student organization groups
  • Homecoming Dance and activities
  • CAB, Student Alliance, and Collegiate leadership pay
  • $2,000 towards Display Magazine budget
  • $2,000 towards Food Pantry to help stock with food
  • $2,000 towards Instrumental Music Group
  • $2,000 towards Vocal Music Group

“Student Alliance tries to be as transparent as possible with where/how the funds are used,” said Remley in a prepared email statement. “They realize this money is coming from the student body and they want to be good stewards of it.”

The GoPass program cost in 2017 was $13,642 from student entrance fees and $963 from the Staff Development budget. There were 14,285 students enrolled at GRCC as of the fall semester of 2017.

Further analysis of the Student Alliance budget can be found at

Attendance at the various locations in 2017:

  • Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum: 296 students
  • Grand Rapids Children’s Museum: 1,342 students,  271 faculty and staff
  • John Ball Zoo: 637 students, 49 faculty and staff
  • Grand Rapids Public Museum: 1,153 students, 38 faculty and staff
  • Grand Rapids Art Museum: No attendance reported back from the GRAM

Every location has a negotiated cap in which GRCC is billed each month for admission, any cost above that cap is absorbed by the reporting location. “In the academic year 2014-2015 we had the most participation with 7,439 students using the program,” said Remley in an email interview. “That is the closest we came to reaching our $38,000 cap and we spent $32,252.50 on the program that year.”

A new destination was added this year, The Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts, granting students free general admission to the galleries.

Cale Merdzinski, President of Student Alliance, said his executive board approved the partnership with UICA last fall.  

“…We approved this after reviewing the agreements with other locations in the GoPass program such as John Ball Zoo, Grand Rapids Art Museum, and the Grand Rapids Public Museum,” Merdzinski said. “The UICA actually approached GRCC to be added to the program, and was excited to work with us to build connections with our college and our community.”

Some students hope to see more attractions added in the future.

What should be added?

“The BOB,” joked Bob Peterson, 48, of Grand Rapids.

Others, such as Kazuki Miyazaki, 20, of Japan, hopes to see Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park added as a part of the program in the future.

More details regarding the Go See GR! Program can be found online.

The GRCC RaiderCard also provides students with discounts at participating locations. These discounts can be found on GRCC’s Student Life website.


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