8 Student Registration and ID Issuance Best Practices

At the beginning of each year, semester or quarter, many institutions of higher education struggle with managing the process of registering students. With 80% to 90% of school identification cards printed during a short registration period, it’s not uncommon for campuses to experience long lines of students crammed into small registration offices waiting to receive their credentials. That’s not exactly the impression colleges and universities want to make on incoming freshmen.

Additionally, institutions are under more pressure to improve security. Be it limiting access to on-campus facilities or preventing crimes of opportunity, colleges and universities are increas­ingly adopting secure identification credentials to keep everyone and everything safe.

To make your institution’s registration process more efficient and to improve security, follow these eight steps.

1. Take the card issuance process to where the students are located. “Wireless and wired technologies enable us to take the printers to wherever the students are and distribute the workload to different places around campus,” says Annika Matas, Zebra Technologies‘ senior product manager.

When campuses take this approach, students no longer need to wait in long lines or pack themselves into small registration offices. Additionally, if you let campus staff bring their own laptops to the issuance location, they can work on other activities like E-mail during lulls in activity.

2. Select equipment that will meet your needs. Equipment should include printers that can print many cards quickly during a rush or one card when there isn’t much activity. It should be easy for staff with little or no training to load the ribbons and cards. Additionally, schools should have IT staff remotely monitor the printers in case there are problems. Some printers even have troubleshooting software.

3. Select a secure card type. There are several types of credentials on the market today with varying degrees of security and cost, and campuses should investigate which type of credential is most appropriate for their institution.

Cards with magnetic stripes and barcodes are the least expensive and most common type of credential, but the least secure. Proximity cards are more secure and are easy to order, print and deploy. That being said, they do have limitations as to the number of cards that can be used per facility code (64,000). This can be a challenge for larger universities. Additionally, prox creden­tials have limited encryption and have become easier to duplicate recently.

For campuses wanting greater security, near-field communications and smart cards are a good option and are becoming more popular.

“There is more encryption involved, so to duplicate a smart card is not as easy as a prox card,” claims Janson Gaworecki, Zebra’s business development manager. “They can also be used for multiple applications, in cafeterias, bookstores, sporting events and the library.”

Long-range UHF cards can be used to monitor staff and student movement in buildings. These are appropriate for high-security applications, such as labs, as well as oncology departments and pharmacies in hospitals. They can also monitor attendance and help with mustering during an emergency, such as a fire.

4. Add security features to your credential. “If you want a high-security card and you are getting your cards pre-printed, you definitely should be thinking about adding security features during the pre-printing process,” suggests Gaworecki. “It’s typically not going to give you a longer lead time, and it’s not very expensive to add a lot of these elements to the card.”

Custom foil stamps and embedded holograms are inexpensive and quite effective. For campuses that want even more security, micro text printing, nano text and UV printing are viable options.

Check out some of the overt and cover ID card security features that are available.

5. Laminate your card. Most cards that don’t have protective laminate coatings only last 12 to 18 months. This is particularly true at colleges and universities. “In the higher ed world, you swipe your card a lot, especially if you are using a mag stripe for the cafeteria, bookstore, library and laundry facilities,” says Gaworecki.

Considering most students’ undergraduate careers last four years, it makes sense to laminate their credentials. Doing so will extend the lifespan of their cards to four or five years and result in cost savings and reduced administrative effort because the cards only need to be printed once per student rather than every year.

6. Select the right ribbon. The experience level of the campus employees operating a printer can sometimes dictate the type of ribbon that should be chosen. For novice users, cartridges might be the best option because they are easy to use and easy to load into the printer.

Ribbons on rolls, however, are less expensive because they have greater capacity, which translates to a lower cost per card.

It is also wise to select a ribbon roll that has an RFID tag or smart chip in it, says Matas. “When ribbons are loaded into the printer, it automatically recognizes what type of ribbon is installed and does the calibration for you.”

For campuses that want to laminate their credentials, laminates without liners are less expensive because less waste is associated with them.

7. Use the cards for more than just identification and access control. Identification cards can also be used for cashless payments for the cafeteria, laundry, bookstore, sporting events and concerts. Local off-campus businesses very often also accept these cards as a form of payment for products and services. This results in less hassle for students because they no longer need to carry cash and other credit cards on them. Single-card solutions also reduce the risk of cash being stolen or lost.

8. Secure the card issuance process. It is critical that physical and logical access to the printers, supplies and cards be limited only to authorized campus personnel. Consider locking your printers, using encryption and having passwords or a credential to control who can issue the cards and administer the system.

So you can trace fraudulent cards to their originators, it is also important to keep logs of who issued the cards and accessed the system at specific times.

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About the Author

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Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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