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Colleges expand use of student ID cards

ID cards improve building security, cut costs on functions such as printing at many campuses

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Using the card isn’t yet mandatory on Iowa campuses.

With the swipe of one card, many college students can eat dinner, buy snacks, wash a load of laundry, check out library books, photocopy homework, attend a football game, access a campus computer lab, and open locked doors.

Identification cards have become that one-stop convenience on many campuses, with technology allowing one piece of plastic to perform banking, security and identification functions.

One card can include bar codes, multiple magnetic strips, and proximity chips that all carry different coded fingerprints for students, faculty, and staff.

“Students really enjoy that convenience of being able to use one card for everything,” said Carol Petersen, University of Northern Iowa’s interim executive director of residence and director of dining. “The more things they’re using it for, the more apt they are to keep track of it.”

Building access is a function many schools are adding to ID cards, using a “proximity chip” that allows the card to be waved in front of door systems for entry. The system replaces metal keys.

The University of Iowa (UI) is rolling out a new version of its Iowa One card that integrates such electronic door access using “proximity” technology. UI has used electronic access on some campus buildings in the past 20 years but has issued a separate proximity card allowing people to get into the buildings.

UI recently changed the banking vendor it uses for those who use their Iowa One card as a debit card and thought the time was right to include the proximity chip feature on the new cards. The change means students, faculty, and staff no longer have to carry separate proximity cards.

Redesigned Iowa One cards were needed anyway due to the change in the banking vendor—to Hills Bank—so it was a good opportunity to add proximity access to the ID cards, UI officials said.

“There’s a convenience factor in having so many functions” on a single card, said Laurie Lentz, director of treasury information systems for UI, noting the card is something students carry with them “all the time.”

A switch to the new card isn’t mandatory right now, Lentz said, but UI officials eventually want everyone to have the new Iowa One card, as electronic building access is upgraded and added to more campus facilities.

Switching to the new card is free, but there is a $25 charge for students to replace a new card if it’s lost or stolen. Faculty and staff aren’t charged for a lost or stolen card.

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