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Considerations for mass (RE) issuance of campus IDs

Contributor   ||   Nov 10, 2015  ||   ,

By Tom Stiles, Identification Systems Group

The task of re-issuing all or part of your campus population can seem daunting, but with proper planning it can be a breeze. How do you go about getting the project accomplished on time, accurately, and in budget? The following list includes considerations and suggestions based on the experience of the ISG and our member dealers.

Form a team

Have a team that includes the various stakeholders on your campus. This will include your office as well as IT, security, housing and other departments that utilize the card. This way you can all be on the same page at the start of the project.

Consider the costs

Cards, printer supplies, rental units or outsourcing charges, labor, and inter-departmental charges are all costs associated with a re-carding. Make a list of each cost area, and be sure there is agreement on the various departmental budgets that will be charged.

Scrub your database

An absolute must is an accurate database of cardholders. Does the database include all the fields of data needed for the new card? If not, how will you obtain the data? If you are issuing contactless or prox cards, how will the programmed card number be read and added to the database, and how will it be exported to relying systems like door access? If the database includes duplicate records, have it scrubbed to eliminate clutter.

Manage your photos

The ID card is a part of an overall security plan, and current photos help with visual identification. You may need to re-capture photos for all or part of your base to ensure you have updated, fresh photos and improve integrity if current photos are of poor quality or have inadequate centering and cropping.

If you want to capture new photos, do you have adequate capture stations, and how will you coordinate the flow of people? Online photo submission is an option. However, the time required to crop, center, save and approve may be similar to simply capturing a live photo.

Test cards

It is very important for test cards to be created, including all machine-readable technologies. These must be tested in the relevant systems to assure they work properly. Test cards also allow you to review the color, placement of fields, fonts and even card durability. Testing also should include the interface to the various other systems that need card data. Testing and quality control should continue throughout the project.

Pre-printed cards

If you presently use pre-printed card stock, now is the perfect time to consider if you should move to retransfer print technology. Retransfer printers provide pre-printed quality, less card waste (important for technology cards), and they don’t leave a “void” if you need to print over the area where the contactless chip is located. Retransfer printer supplies generally cost a bit more on a per-card basis, but so does preprinting. And, preprinting has other challenges like longer lead times, minimum orders and receipt of +/- 10% of what you ordered.


If you plan to reprint the cards yourself, make sure you have more than enough supplies, such as ribbons, laminates, cards and printer cleaning kits.

Printing of new cards

There are three options for mass printing of the new cards.

  • Print on your current card printers. Given enough time, your current card printers may be adequate to produce the job. Today’s card printers are very reliable and capable of printing hundreds of thousands of cards over their lifetime. In our experience, the “wear and tear” concern is overblown and not a valid reason to avoid using your current printers.
  • Rent additional printers. Your local ISG dealer can provide rental systems to give you additional muscle when you need it most. The cost of a rental unit includes delivery, installation, training and ongoing maintenance during the rental period.
  • Outsource the card printing to an outside company. Outsourcing is likely the easiest method, but is also likely to be the most expensive. Keep in mind that time will still be required on your part to work with the vendor to place the order, develop the card design, gather your database, approve proof cards and test cards.

Distribution of new cards, identity verification, card activation

Most campuses that re-issue require the cardholder to pick up the new card in-person and surrender their old card. An important part of the process is to verify the person is who they say they are. Some campuses ask for a state issued ID as verification. To prevent long lines, schedule pick ups based on groups over a period of time. For instance, freshman pick-up could be Tuesday from 9-5, but based on last name (9-Noon for names A-M, 1-5 p.m. for names N-Z).

There should be a process to activate the new card and de-activate the old card at the time it is picked up. There should not be a waiting period for the new card to be active, nor should you have two cards active for any person.

On-site service technician

If using your own equipment, consider contracting with your local ISG dealer to have a technician on-site during the project. This provides the assurance of a certified expert to help you through the process and service anything that breaks.

Ideas for Communications

It is important to communicate in advance with your students and staff about the re-issuance. Think of it as a marketing campaign. Communications can be through email, university websites, social media and more. Creating awareness is the key factor.

You can, for example, conduct a multi-step campaign and launch the card project. Start in the spring with a card design competition, and use social media and sporting events to create a buzz. During the summer, promote the card but don’t unveil it. Once August hits, make the big reveal with giveaways and swag as students pick up the new ID.

Provide an FAQ detailing the new cards and why they are being issued. Parents want to see important safety changes, so this guide educates students, staff and parents.

Mass (re) issuance is no small task, but with proper planning and the right team, you can make it straightforward and cost effective.

About the ISG

Identification Systems Group (ISG) is a nationwide network of local identification system integrators, providing high quality, cost effective solutions backed by local support and the strength of its Professional Services Certification program. Each company works together to provide seamless nationwide support.

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