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HofstraCard keeps campus safe and students happy

Hofstra is a private university located in Hempstead, NY about 25 miles east of Manhattan on Long Island. More than 13,000 students participate in the undergraduate, graduate, and law programs. An additional 2600 faculty/staff raise the Hofstra population to 15,000 individuals. Add the cards are issued to alumni and special programs and the total HofstraCard population exceeds 45,000 active cards.

The HofstraCard utilizes technology from General Meters Corporation (GMC) of Colorado Springs, Colorado. Hofstra selected GMC as its card program partner in 1995 and the program has steadily grown with the company’s card offerings and applications through the seven year relationship.

The HofstraCard office is a part of the Public Safety department, suggesting the program’s roots in access control. From its inception, a primary driver for the card was its use as an access control credential to help secure buildings and facilities.

More than 4000 students live in university housing and each residence building is secured with a mag stripe reader at external doors. The entire residential portion of the campus is gated and locked down by 10 pm each evening, with access granted to approved cardholders only. All students are required to carry their card when on campus and the public safety officers frequently check an individual’s status. In addition to residence areas, access to labs, recreation centers, offices, athletic facilities, and other locations are controlled via the card.

In the past, Hofstra’s mealplan was a board plan with a set number of meals per week and a number of flex dollars for incidentalspending. In 1997, students convinced staff to eliminate the board plan and go to 100% flex dollars. The new program enables students to purchase varying numbers of “Pride Points,” ranging from 495-1550 per semester. There are nearly 4000 participants in the mealplan program.

The campus also has a declining balance program for use in locations outside of the dining facilities. Called “Dutch Debit,” the card controlled spending mechanism is accepted in laundry and snack vending locations as well as by the bookstore, campus concert committee, movie series, telecommunications, and other offices. In the coming months, Dutch Debit will be accepted in both soft drink vending machines and video games.

Other applications controlled by the card include:

  • Library patron identification is conducted using a barcode.
  • University-run buses that serve the campus and the local train station have on-board card readers to control and track riders. The offline readers store the cardholder database and check card swipes against the database to ensure that only active cardholders are permitted to ride. The data is collected and analyzed for usage statistics.
  • Language tape checkout and time monitoring is achieved using a software module from GMC that allows the assignment of a tape from the language lab to a student account. The time that the student uses the tape in the lab is then tracked for reporting to the faculty member requiring the tape’s usage.

According to Fred Emery, Director of HofstraCard Services, “we have deployed well over 200 card readers including access control readers, laundry payment readers, vending readers, cash registers, point of sale terminals, and Dutch Debit revalue terminals. We are extremely pleased with our partnership with General Meters.”

The office maintains student-friendly hours, remaining open from 9 am to 9 pm on Monday thru Thursday; 9 am to 5 pm on Friday; and 11 am to 3 pm on Saturday. Three fulltime staff members oversee the operation with the support of one part time employee and several student assistants. The office makes use of a single card production station running GMC’s ID32 badging software and a Fargo DTC525 printer.

Five administrative terminals enable customer service issues to be addressed, reports to be generated, and both Dutch Debit and Pride Point deposits to be made. Beyond the card office, the Swim Center has a card production system for creation of community membership cards.

Each summer 2500 students attend orientation for the coming semester. At orientation, photos are captured and cards are pre-printed for pickup at the start of theschool year. In a given week, Mr. Emery estimates that 50 lost or stolen cards are reissued from the office. Hofstra charges a $10 fee for this service–and they accept Dutch Debit for payment of this fee.

When asked what sets the HofstraCard program apart, Mr. Emery casually mentions that his office produces the cards for the New York Jets. When asked to elaborate, he explains that the NFL team has its administrative offices on the campus and holds summer training camps onsite. Many players, coaches, and staff live in university housing during this time and they–like every other Hofstra resident–must have a card for access to the facilities.

What’s next for the HofstraCard? According to Mr. Emery they will be upgrading their system to the new version of the GMC cash registers and plan to migrate to GMC’s web server product that will enable cardholders to make deposits and perform other functions via the web.

Thanks to Fred Emery for his help in the preparation of this article. He can be reached by email at [email protected] HOFSTRA.EDU. General Meters can be found on the web at www.1card.com.

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