Universities get smart with ID cards

College Press Service

It used to be that ID cards were just that -- ID cards.

But on more college campuses, identification cards can now be called "everything cards." Students are able to buy snacks at vending machines, access school records, gain entry to university buildings, ride the bus and more with their ID cards.

Students at Florida State University have a world of information at their fingertips with cards that can get them into Florida Seminoles games and dining halls.

The so-called "smart cards" contain a computer chip and are far more sophisticated than magnetic-strip cards, school officials said.

The "smart card" will also allow students to access their records, grades, transcripts and financial aid information. Students can transfer a financial-aid check directly to their card without going to the bank.

The card "opens up a new set of possibilities," said Bill Norwood, executive director of Florida State's Card Application Technology Center.

Even bank transactions are possible with the new card, he said. And because the computer chip is harder to duplicate, the card is more secure than bank cards that have magnetic strips.

If the "smart card" idea catches on at other schools, Florida State may earn licensing and consulting fees.

As it is, several universities are using the card. At Indiana State University, thousands of students, faculty members and staff members streamed through the school's ballroom to get their new "smart" identification cards.

And if University of Houston Students' Association President John Moore has his way, UH students will be using a similar card called the OneCard.

Cards will have students' pictures and information on the front and two magnetic strips on the back.

UH Vice President of Administration Ann Lamar said the OneCard will be mandatory as an ID card, but students don't have to register for services.

According to the UH OneCard university committee, the OneCard will be implemented in phases beginning in the first summer session of 1997.

In the first phase, the card would be ready to use as an ID, library, photocopy, vending, meal plan and long-distance calling card.

The committee expects that the second phase will be implemented during the summer of 1998, and services would include banking and bookstore accounts, athletic tickets and Health Center records.

At the University of Michigan, students have a "Big Brother" feeling each time they use their ID because the MCard can be used to track students' movements across campus.

UM school officials hasten to add that the tracking system is only used in emergency cases or at the request of police.

At Michigan State University, students must swipe their ID cards when they attend class so professors can keep track of attendance.

When the system was tested in an economics class last fall, all 500 students checked into class on time.

Lamar said UH will create a system to handle the services offered on the OneCard.

Although this system may create initial expenses, Lamar said the school could eventually profit from the card.

Indiana State University receives up to 20 percent of revenue related to long-distance phone calls made with their card.

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