ID Cards Aren’t Just for Access Control Any More

The use of credentials at institutions of higher learning is expanding to include cafeteria privileges, library services, debit, transportation, printing and more. Eventually, campuses might do away with ID cards and use cell phone technology instead.

From campus to campus, there are widely differing mentalities on how access control systems are designed and managed, according to research just released by Ingersoll Rand. Facilities and public safety, the key stakeholders in 57% of colleges, are more traditional in their approach, while IT, one-card and housing departments are more customer — and student — oriented. The focus is evolving from the former to the latter.

In other words, access control on campus is moving from the traditional security/product-oriented focus of the facilities and public safety departments to the broader definition of the IT, one-card and housing departments. When the IT, one-card or housing departments are the key stakeholders, the access solutions are more innovative, going beyond conventional door-based applications. That’s because the one-card department considers convenience, customer service, improving customer experiences and including the students’ perceptions in the access control decision as primary concerns.  IT’s major focus is measuring the return on investment to the higher education institution to improve options for upgrading.

Mag Stripe Cards Are Still King
Access to buildings, identification, cafeteria/food courts, library, bookstore purchases, printing and vending machines, in that order, are the leading applications for which American college students use their school-issued cards. Surprisingly, to undertake these applications, 76% of colleges still use a magnetic stripe card even though students are the leading first adopters for new technologies. Only 31% of them are using proximity cards, 16% are using proximity fobs/tokens, 10% are using biometrics and 9% are using smart cards. The average student carries 1.49 credentials. (See fig. 1)

Four-year colleges are more likely to use credentials for bookstore, vending and cafeteria purchases, laundry, library and retail off-campus than two-year colleges. Publicly funded colleges use credentials more for printing, transportation and as a debit card both on- and off-campus than private schools. Colleges in cities/urban areas use credentials for historical/student records, printing, secure computer login, time and attendance and transportation. Small town colleges use credentials for library checkout. Rural schools use them for identification, and suburban schools use credentials for access to buildings. On average, students use their credentials for 6.36 different applications. (See fig. 2)

The places where schools undertake visual identity checks (VICs) also vary as to the type of school. Four-year colleges are more likely than two-year schools to do VICs in dorms and cafeterias, and at recreational facilities and sporting events. Publicly funded schools are more likely to do VICs at their child care facilities, while private schools emphasize sporting events. Colleges in the suburbs do more VICs in their cafeterias and libraries, while urban schools deploy VICs at their recreational facilities. Mid-sized schools are more likely to do VICs in their cafeterias. Large schools are more likely to not use people to perform VICs at all.  Visual checks are conducted as a supplement to other types of credentials 87% of the time. (See fig. 3)

Students Prefer One-Card Systems
From technology, students are looking for convenience but without intrusiveness. To gain student acceptance in colleges, safety and security must be unobtrusive and transparent. That’s why one-card systems are so popular with students. They are convenient and provide more efficient ways to help them accomplish their goals. When asked about their one-card systems, students will proclaim, “My one card is my everything.”

One-card systems tend to be found more often in mid-sized and four year colleges. Colleges in city or suburban areas are more likely than those in rural areas to use custom/internally developed one-card systems. Of all one-card systems in use, though, only 12% are custom or internally developed. The great majority of one-card systems in use carry a brand name.

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