Out With the Old, In With the New

Riverside Community College District decided it was time to upgrade its ID cards to be multi-functioning tools for students, faculty and staff.

For nearly eight years, the three campuses of Riverside Community College District (RCCD) of Riverside, Calif., used the same simple design for their identification card. With just a photo and a barcode, the credential allowed students to check out books at the library and not much else.

Fast forward to 2007, when officials determined it was time for a change. In addition to needing a new design for the identification card, RCCD also needed to implement a new way to log student hours being spent in the laboratories and other core curriculum areas on campus. In order for students to receive a grade in certain classes, they must spend a specified amount of hours in the laboratories. Additionally, in the State of California, community colleges must document the time students spend in the labs in order to maintain partial reimbursement funds from state agencies.

The system the district had been using was out of date due to a computer upgrade. “[Our old] system was a fairly primitive interface to our Datatel system,” says Steve Gilson, associate vice chancellor of information services at RCCD. “When we upgraded to Release 18 [an updated version of the Datatel system that provides Web services at a more rapid pace], the system wouldn’t work anymore.” Thus, officials sought new ways to track time.

Having been a customer of CI Solutions (Card Integrators Corporation) of Los Alamitos, Calif., for nearly 10 years, RCCD looked to the company to not only assist with a redesign of the card and add technology to record time, but also to help implement a new system that would turn the identification cards into ATM cards for students, faculty and staff. Knowing this, CI Solutions enlisted Camarillo, Calif.–based card printer company Zebra Card Solutions to assist with the new program.

A New Look Requires an Upgrade
According to Kathy Beckwith, general manager for CI Solutions, many meetings went on between the district and the company to determine what would work best for the students, faculty and staff on- and off-campus.

The company itself was promoting new products for networking and tracking using ID cards. As a result, CI Solutions provided the district with upgraded ID software, a redesign for the ID card and tracking software. All of these systems were networked to validate student identification and compare against the student database.

Now when students log in their laboratory hours, they simply scan the newly added magnetic stripe that’s located on the back of the card. “Each student’s unique student ID number is encoded on that stripe,” says Beckwith. “When they scan the magnetic stripe, it brings up their profile, and they choose the category they want their time assigned to. All transactions are kept electronically and are available for reporting purposes.”

The district also wanted to add additional features and services on the card for students, faculty and staff. Thus, RCCD officials sought new ideas to achieve this. RCCD issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) to potential providers of campus card financial services and awarded the business to Wells Fargo. This allowed the ID cards to be used not only for tracking, but also as an ATM debit card when linked to a Wells Fargo checking account.

CI Solutions worked closely with Wells Fargo to identify the information and format required to encode the magnetic stripe. Next, the company created the actual layout for the credential. Lastly, the Zebra P330i card printer encoded the data on the magnetic stripe, and printed the photo and additional information on the front of the cards.

The redesign of the credentials included added functionalities. On the front, there is the student/faculty/staff photo, a graphic of the campus, college emblem and identification number. On the back, a barcode and magnetic stripe are included for all ATM transactions and tracking.

Debit Cards Are Not Credit Cards
While officials were excited about the new upgrade, some feared the debit cards were actually credit cards. “When we initially rolled out [the cards], there were a couple of faculty members who raised the issue, ‘You’re encouraging [the students] to get into debt,’” says Gilson. However, “Wells Fargo has been very clear that the card can be linked to a checking account and is not a credit card. .”

It is also important to note that only students and faculty who have signed up for a checking account with Wells Fargo are able to use the identification cards for ATM and PIN-based transactions if they have elected to link their card to their checking account. Additionally, students are not required to participate in the ID credential program. “We encourage them to get [the cards],” explains Gilson. “We can’t force them to have them, but we can make enough compelling reasons as the future rolls out as to why [students] would want one.”

Furthermore, wherever a pin-terminal has been installed, students, faculty and staff will be able to make purchases using the credential. For example, if a terminal has been installed at the campus bookstore, students would be able to make transactions using their card. Similar to the old model, the IDs serve as a library card.

In the future, Gilson adds, the district might track other things, such as time spent with a student advisor.

Access Control Is the Next Phase
The next phase for the upgraded identification cards is access control. Only one staff building in the district has implemented it, and students do not have any access control technology on their credentials. As more buildings are constructed, the district plans to provide select staff members at all new facilities with proximity card control.

Unlike credentials with magnetic stripes, proximity cards do not have to be swiped through the scanning device; rather, the card can be presented within reading range of the sensor to provide access into buildings.

Proximity technology is ideal for the district for several reasons. One, district officials will be able to document who entered a building. If by chance there is a breach, the system can track when an individual entered the facility. Additionally, officials will be able to delete the card number from the access control database if a staff member resigns or is terminated, rather than waiting for keys to be returned.

The proximity cards will also be provided by CI Solutions and will be printed using the same Zebra P330i printers.


According to Mike Wojciak, western region sales manager of Zebra Card Solutions of Camarillo, Calif., card printers can last up to eight years with the proper maintenance. “Users should make sure they are running the cleaning process every thousand cards or so. A replacement cleaning roller comes with each roll of ribbon that users replace,” he says. “If users do those things on a regular basis, the printer will last a long time.”

Campus at a Glance

Campus: Riverside Community College District (RCCD) is located in Riverside, Calif., and is comprised of three campuses: Riverside City, Moreno Valley and Norco. Riverside City has 140 acres; Moreno Valley has 132 acres; Norco has 141 acres. As a district, RCCD has more than 34,000 students, and 2,000 staff and faculty.

Problem: RCCD sought a new look for its identification cards. Additionally, the district wanted to add new features to help students track the time spent in laboratories.

Solution: Partnering with CI Solutions, Zebra Card Printers and Wells Fargo, the new identification cards now allow students to log in their laboratory hours. Additionally, the credentials serve as debit cards.

Results: Identification cards have a new design, electronically record time and serve as debit cards. By tracking the time students spend in laboratories, the district is able to receive partial reimbursement funds from state agencies. For staff and faculty, the cards also provide access to staff-only buildings by use of a proximity card.

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Ashley Willis is assistant editor of Campus Safety. She can be reached at ashley.willis@bobit.com.


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