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Card, mobile credential, payment and security

Every university has to manage its card stock supply, and though it’s not the most exciting task for a card office to undertake, being left without a sufficient supply of cards can bring a university’s card issuance to a grinding halt.

Depending on the size of the institution, the type of credential, and even the time of year, replenishing card stock is more of a process than you may think. ColorID’s corporate marketing manager, Mark Degan, offers his insights to better explain the factors that a university should consider when it comes time to restock.

Keeping stock

When it comes to card stock supplies, the first consideration for any university card office should be the amount of card stock needed to keep the operation running smoothly.

“Depending on the university’s orientation sizes, as well as the functions that they are using their ID cards for will help determine the amount of card stock it should keep handy,” explains Degan. “I would suggest having at least six months worth of card stock in house at any given time.”

Housing six months worth of card stock should provide a significant cushion for a university to accomplish its average operations, but it is also important to account for potential abnormalities in card stock consumption.

“A number of issues can come up that could increase your card consumption,” says Degan. “The most common are large orientation classes, re-carding, card stock failure, bad batches or even an ID printer malfunctioning and requiring reprints.”

Degan explains that the size of the institution may also play a role in the restocking process, as larger universities do usually have a larger replenish size. Alternatively, larger universities can order more frequently rather than placing a single, larger-quantity order.

Know your lead time

In addition to the many operational challenges that a card office may face, another key consideration for replenishing card stock is lead time.

As Degan explains, a card office must take lead time into account because delivery time frames will vary depending on the type of card stock.

“Non-custom, non-technology, or blank, card stock is usually available in sleeves of 500 in a number of options and varieties,” explains Degan. “For blank card stock, the standard lead time is one week, and if for some reason it isn’t in stock, a new order could take up to four weeks.”

Next on the list is custom, non-technology card stock. “These card stock orders usually take between 2-4 weeks, but in the summer months, universities should assume 6-8 weeks,” says Degan.

According to Degan, non-custom, technology card stock typically comes in sleeves of 250-500 and offers a number of options and varieties. “Standard lead time for this card stock is 1-2 weeks, but if it’s out of stock a university should expect 4-6 weeks for manufacturing throughout the year and 6-8 weeks during the summer months,” he adds.

The lengthiest lead time can typically be found with custom, technology card stock. As Degan explains, these orders routinely take around 4-6 weeks, but in the summer months can balloon up to 6-10 weeks.

Despite their varying lead times, Degan does explain that the type of card stock does not affect the overall order quantity, provided the university can afford to wait for the shipment to arrive. It’s for this reason that planning ahead is crucial.

Time is of the essence

As previously mentioned, the time of year can factor into the amount of time it takes to process an order. With this in mind, Degan offers some advice for planning ahead.

“The best time of the year to order card stock is from October to April,” Degan explains. “After spring comes around, and throughout the summer months, lead times always increase because some universities forget to place their orders earlier, or have just realized they opened their last box of cards.”

Degan places a hard deadline on a restocking order. “The absolute latest that a university card office should wait to reorder card stock is six months worth of card supply,” he says. “Waiting any longer than that will result in longer lead times and could make life a little more stressful.”

“We send our customers emails throughout the year with accurate lead times so they can plan ahead,” says Degan. “Lead times can change very rapidly so be sure to ask at the time of your order what the current lead time is and if you need cards by a certain date to relay that to your provider.”

Ace up your sleeve

Running out of card stock will bring any card office to its knees, halting all card issuance in its tracks. Knowing the lead time for your university’s type of card stock is vital.

While replenishing card stock likely isn’t a daily thought for card office administrators, it’s nonetheless a task worth considering. With just a little bit of planning in advance and an understanding of your university’s needs, a card office can steer clear of catastrophe and avoid the bottom of the deck.

A new student service that has been gaining momentum in recent months is university-run food pantries. These pantries are designed to offer reprieve for struggling students in need of a meal, and Topeka, Kansas’ Washburn University is the latest to join the trend.

The university officially opened the doors to its stocked pantry, The Exchange, following a grand opening on campus this week. The space provided for The Exchange pantry was donated by the Washburn psychology department.

As reported by The Topeka Capital-Journal students and faculty members alike can access the food items as they are available, provided they show their valid Washburn University ID card. Donations to the pantry, meanwhile, will be given on a confidential basis.

University officials close to the project conducted a survey during the fall 2013 semester, finding that 45% of respondents cut the size of their meals or skipped a meal completely because they didn’t have enough money.

The Exchange is the first part of a student-driven hunger alleviation and nutrition education initiative called Bods Feeding Bods that was launched in August.

The unfortunate challenge with university food pantries is that many students in need feel ashamed or embarrassed to seek the extra help. Washburn hopes to alleviate that pressure and plans to keep the pantry doors open from 3 to 6 p.m. on Mondays and 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Thursdays.

The Exchange will operate these two days each week and will be staffed by volunteers from the campus community. Those interested in the pantry’s services can receive food twice each month so long as they have an active Washburn ID card. Food distribution will be based on family size.

For many universities, managing student transactions can be a bear. Between numerous campus departments, account types and maybe even a dated card system, the daily task of reconciling student purchases can be an undertaking.

New transaction systems and account management software have put the power back into the hands of campus administrators, making a once troublesome operation more efficient and convenient.

The Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) knows this first hand, as the college launched a new transaction system this year, leveraging CBORD’s GET and UGryd solutions.

One step at a time

The college’s move to GET was a long time coming, as Richard Tamborelli, manager of ID card services at the Rhode Island School of Design, recalls the institution’s transaction systems of years past.

Tamborelli remembers a system in place roughly ten years ago that saw students visit encoders to put funds onto a junk stripe. “That system wasn’t secure because if a student lost that card, they lost their money along with it,” he explains.

The college had a declining balance account system that was used for printing and laundry, but couldn’t add funds online, says Tamborelli. “You had to go to a cash value station, insert paper bills and swipe your card to add funds.”

Not being able to load funds online as well as the inability to cancel funds if a card was lost meant RISD wasn’t seeing a lot of deposit volume, recalls Tamborelli. “We found that students were only loading $5 or $10 onto the junk stripes; nobody wanted to load up $100 and run the risk of losing the card and the money.”

Prior to launching GET, the college had made changes to its junk stripe program. The system enabled students to keep their money a little bit safer, associating declining balance funds with the student’s ID number, rather than the physical piece of plastic. Nevertheless, Tamborelli and RISD administrators saw room for improvement.

“It was a very fragmented system. Students were having to interact with separate operations for laundry/vending machines, the RISD bookstore, as well as dining and meal plan accounts,” explains Tamborelli. “Students had to go to a lot of different places to manage those various accounts on their cards.”

This inconvenience was a primary inspiration for the college’s most recent move to CBORD’s GET system. “We wanted a one-stop shop, so to speak, with web and mobile access,” says Tamborelli. “We wanted to eliminate the inconvenience and combine all important student resources in one place.”

The jump to GET Funds has seen the RISD bookstore dissolve its previous, standalone account and join the RISD Bucks program alongside the college’s print/copy, vending and laundry accounts.

As Tamborelli explains, however, the added convenience of the new system was only part of the equation. “Our focus was both convenience and security for the student,” says Tamborelli. “With security, in particular, we wanted students to be comfortable with the system.”

Following the move away from junk stripes, the college saw the amount of deposits increase. “This suggested to us that the security of the card was a major issue for students,” Tamborelli adds.

“Now, with GET, we can give students a single resource from which they can monitor all their account information,” Tamborelli explains. “Our students needed a resource that informed them about their account balances for printing or laundry, even down to the number of dining hall meals they have left.”

‘GET’ting situated

Despite its smaller population – RISD boasts a full-time enrollment of roughly 2,500 – the need for a more convenient transaction system was still a paramount concern. To aid in the process, RISD turned to those who use the system most, the students.

“We spoke to students and found that they enjoyed the convenience of going onto the college site to see their RISD Bucks accounts,” says Spencer Dhupa, lead application specialist for the college. “Students can see everything they purchased. We were very specific on how we designed it so that the student can actually see where they made a purchase – the exact store, laundry room or print station.”

To add to the convenience of viewing past transactions, students can also add money round the clock, something that was not possible prior to GET’s mobile capabilities.

The development process for the new system didn’t take place within the confines of a vacuum, Dhupa explains. In addition to speaking with students, a team from RISD spoke directly with the vendor to build out a comprehensive implementation plan.

“The system includes UGryd for off-campus merchants, GET for student declining balance accounts and CBORD’s Odyssey PSC Web Sales. There is also a separate integration with Pharos for print/copy, and a Sequoia integration for the RISD bookstore,” Dhupa says.

Once the integrations were complete, Dhupa explains that the team also enabled faculty members to leverage GET and use the RISD Bucks program to make purchases around campus.

On the Gryd

With the GET system fully integrated, Tamborelli, Dhupa and the rest of the RISD team can devote their efforts to the college’s fledgling off-campus program through UGryd.

“We’re focusing now on expanding UGryd,” says Tamborelli. “We had a lot to do initially, so we got UGryd on the table and kept it alive, but now we can refocus our efforts on building out that part of the system.”

RISD’s efforts on the UGryd side of the implementation are an important aspect to the system’s overall implementation, as it’s uncharted territory for the Providence-based college.

“Our off-campus system prior to UGryd could be summed up in one word: ‘none,’” says Tamborelli. “With UGryd, we’re trying to offer that service and make it a conscious effort with regular student input and feedback.”

The college is working with local CVS pharmacies, a local cab company, a printing company and other merchants, Tamborelli says. “We wanted to start slow, but we knew we wanted pharmacy and cab services,” says Tamborelli. “This way if a student had a headache in the middle of the night and needs aspirin and a ride, they can use their RISD ID.”

Tamborelli says the college is primarily looking for services, as opposed to dining options. To aid in the process, the director of dining and catering at RISD has conducted student focus groups.

“We’ve found that services like dry cleaners, hair salons and grocery stores have been popular requests,” says Tamborelli. “Students haven’t pushed for restaurants as much, and we want to provide a wide range of services that are valuable to students, not just discounts on food.”

Lessons learned

Despite major parts of the RISD implementation being hosted by CBORD, Tamborelli and his team found that getting the various departments within the college on the same page was vital.

“In general, all systems on campus had to be standardized to be sure that all information was consistent across all parts of the house,” says Tamborelli. “We had to pull all the various accounts and departments together to go in a single direction; it just took a little bit of elbow grease.”

The elbow grease was worth the effort for Tamborelli and his card office to get a more robust transaction system. “It’s one place to see everything,” he says. “It’s a lot easier to help a student that walks into our office because I can look at their record see everything – their purchase history, deposits, etc. – and make any necessary corrections.”

There were growing pains to the implementation, as the new system added transaction services to his card office’s responsibilities. “We did primarily access control, we had access to look into the transaction system before, but it was limited and we had to consult with other departments to reconcile transaction issues,” Tamborelli explains. “It was somewhat convoluted.”

This new system effectively makes our card office the one-stop shop for everything related to the RISD ID,” says Tamborelli. “It’s driven new traffic to our office, but students previously had to visit multiple locations around campus to resolve those account issues.”

Despite the relative influx of office visits, Tamborelli insists that it hasn’t been overwhelming. “We see more foot traffic, but the tool that we use is effective,” he says. “So we can handle five or ten students in a day better than we used to handle one or two.”

Tamborelli says that for his side of the house, the management side, the new GET system is operational and effective. “It’s one location to look at everything,” he says. “Whether a student buys a pencil at the store, or a sandwich at the dining facility, or a print at the copy machine, it’s easy for me to access and review that information and assist the student. “Bottom line, it’s a safe, secure and convenient system for the student to use.”

At Quinnipiac University, students use their campus card and QCash to pay for groceries, laundry and takeout orders, but a slow transaction process and higher fees have some local merchants turning their backs on the student ID card.

Per the QCard website, students can use their QCash account to make purchases at a number of off-campus locations ranging from Exxon gas stations to Chili’s restaurants.

As reported by The Quinnipiac Chronicle, however, employees at a local grocery store and pizzeria – locations where QCash is currently accepted – claim that the QCash system is in need of an upgrade.

At the grocery store, there is a separate QCard scanner, and employees have reported that the transaction process is slower than standard, non-QCash purchases. The check-out process requires the student to move over to the side and sign for purchases, which can back up the line.

Moreover, some partnering merchants report losing more money when a student uses QCash than when they present a debit card.

At local pizzeria Tonino’s, the current processing fee for QCash is 11%, while other merchants have reported QCash processing fees of 13%. At least at Quinnipiac, the higher processing fees have led to a general merchant preference for standard debit cards over QCard purchases.

According to Quinnipiac’s office of auxiliary services, the processing fees are established by the university’s card system vendor, who also handles all relationships, contracts and payments with partnering merchants. Despite the higher fees, the unrest remains puzzling as all merchants that join the QCard program do so willingly and are made aware of the fees prior to signing up.

It’s also understandable that the fees are higher than a standard debit card, as the QCard has an incredibly smaller issuance and user base.

The problem, then, may not be the fees themselves so much as the frequency of which local merchants have to process them. The same local pizzeria reports that roughly 50% of its total revenue comes from Quinnipiac students – the largest segment of its business.

Late night transportation is a vital service for students at universities nationwide. The same holds true in Cincinnati, where The University of Cincinnati App Lab has developed a mobile app that places NightRide services into the hands of students.

The new system is expected to boost usage of the NightRide system by giving students the ability to request a ride directly from their smartphone. The app will also provide students with status alerts and more detail regarding wait times and vehicle locations.

As reported by The News Record, the new app is expected to alleviate student frustration with the current NightRide system, which boasts a fleet of eight vans that run between 8 p.m. and midnight every Sunday through Wednesday and 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday through Saturday.

The mobile app allows students to avoid busy call lines by enabling ride requests at the touch of a button. Tracking the status of a NightRide is also made easier withe new app, as push notification are sent to the student as they wait.

In addition to improving the overall student experience, the new app’s reporting capabilities could also benefit NightRide personnel in expediting the pickup process.

At present, the NightRide call center logs ride requests on Excel spreadsheets that are then sent to drivers via Google Docs – a manual and time-consuming process. With this in mind, the University of Cincinnati App Lab developed an accompanying app for NightRide drivers, called Dravigator, that better organizes ride requests, location and routing data for drivers.

The mobile app was created at the beginning of the fall 2014 semester and is currently in its pilot phase.

For universities nationwide, getting students through the dining hall doors and to their daily meals is a constant struggle that requires a delicate balance of student convenience and throughput.

Biometric applications have garnered demand in a number of locations across the contemporary college campus, particularly those locations where students don’t want to carry their cards. But biometrics has extended beyond rec centers, athletic facilities and team locker rooms, as more universities are deploying the technology at campus dining halls.

While a vast majority of universities use the campus card to facilitate dining hall entry, some institutions have decided to leverage biometrics at the dining hall door, enabling the students to be their own meal ticket.

Today’s special

“The dining hall application continues to be a hot topic for universities,” says David Stallsmith, director of product management at ColorID. “Attendees at NACCU, NACAS, UBTech and several other higher education conferences have expressed great interest in biometrics technology this past year.”

As the technology continues to evolve, with both scanner hardware and matching algorithms becoming more robust, biometrics seems a viable alternative to the traditional campus card. According to Stallsmith, there are a few primary factors that contribute to the performance of a biometric dining system.

“There’s the quality of the sensors, the security of the matching algorithms built into the supporting software and the location of the stored templates – on card, in database or on device,” says Stallsmith. “Moreover, you can also designate the the number of factors required – biometric alone, biometric and card or biometric and PIN.”

As Smallsmith makes clear however, there will always be a place for the student ID card. “We don’t believe campuses are ready to ditch ID cards, but there are certain applications where biometrics seem to work better and faster than mag stripe or contactless cards,” Stallsmith explains.

A menu of modalities

In addition to its hardware and software evolution, biometrics as a medium has grown as well. Biometric modalities now range from the standard fingerprint to advanced vascular biometrics, keystroke recognition and even gait.

Modality is just one of the many factors that contribute to the success of a biometric implementation, but it’s an important consideration, nonetheless. What modality, then, is best suited to the university dining hall?

ColorID offers fingerprint and palm vein sensors, as well as an iris recognition solution. Stallsmith believes it’s the latter that holds the most promise in dining applications.

“Of the current biometric modalities, iris recognition is usually the fastest and most accurate, especially for populations over 10,000,” explains Stallsmith. “Iris is a one-to-many method of recognition, as opposed to palm vein or fingerprint that typically still require a one-to-one match.”

“The algorithms for fingerprint and palm vein aren’t fast enough to match against a larger database, and thus requires a PIN or card to match against a template,” adds Stallsmith.

For dining hall applications where convenience is key, carrying an additional factor of authentication in the form of an ID card or a memorized PIN doesn’t enhance the experience. One-to-many matching means that the iris systems can yield a match much quicker, making it an ideal modality for populations of 2,000 or more.

Iris authentication is achieved by taking pictures of the eye and using the iris patterns to create unique numbers, called templates. These are then matched against all the templates in a database.

Stallsmith explains that a typical iris identification transaction is completed in just two seconds, from approach to approval. “Across the board, we have found that iris recognition performs better than other modalities, though iris systems tend to be slightly more expensive,” Stallsmith adds.

An ever-present consideration, cost will likely be a sticking point for most institutions considering a biometric deployment at the dining hall.

“High-quality biometric readers range anywhere from $800 to $3000, depending on the type of scanner,” estimates Stallsmith. “There can also be software and integration costs.”

Stallsmith goes on to explain, however, that when used in high-throughput applications, sensor costs can be quickly distributed across the larger number of users.

In practice, iris seems to be gaining momentum in the campus dining space.

George Mason University has installed iris systems in all campus dining halls, and Stallsmith estimates that another six universities are in the planning and pilot phases for similar projects.

At Georgia Southern University, more than 10,000 students have enrolled in an iris-based transaction system. To date, the university has logged some 1.2 million iris-based transactions since the biometric dining solution’s implementation in the fall of 2013.

Blending flavors

Selecting an affordable biometric solution is still only part of the concern for university administrators, as the integration process can be complicated without the proper preparation.

“Biometric devices are typically built for access control and are designed to output a previously stored card number upon identification of each person,” explains Stallsmith. “For implementation, you have to understand how to convert these card numbers into data that can be read by your university’s POS terminals and other online devices.”

“Essentially, if the device has an input, we can get the right kind of data into it,” says Stallsmith. “Once the POS terminal or card system receives the card number, the validation process is the same as it would be for a mag stripe or contactless card.”

“Each user’s card number is entered in the biometric system during enrollment, which can normally be done while the ID card is being printed,” he adds.

Soup’s on

So long as there are hungry students on campus, there will be lines at the dining hall. Being able to get students through the door and to the dinner table as quickly and efficiently as possible, then, will be a vital concern.

Meanwhile, the use of biometrics on the contemporary college campus continues to grow in both adoption and variety of use. As iris, fingerprint and other modalities continue to evolve, dining hall applications could be the latest to benefit from the technology.

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