College campuses are now playing home to Gen Z, those born between 1995 and 2012. This new wave of students — along with their habits and expectations — is beginning to alter the way universities operate, and that includes the campus card office.
“This marks the first generational group to never live without the internet. They’re digital natives,” says Jeff Meier, Director of Identity and Management Solutions at Entrust Datacard. “Unlike previous generations, they clearly understand how technology works and how to filter out what isn’t relevant to them.”
Meier has spent considerable time on campus, and has seen a noticeable trend across the board: Modern students have unique demands. When is comes to the Gen Z student, and how campus card offices should serve them, Meier and the team at Entrust Datacard focus on 5 primary areas:
1. Student orientation experience
The peak time for any campus card office will inevitably be orientation. For this reason alone, Meier stresses the importance of meeting modern students at their expectations from day one.
“Streamlining student orientation with multi-location capture, enrollment and printing is a great start,” says Meier. “Making the orientation process easier benefits everyone, and in the process can make card offices look like heroes.”
Doing things the way we always have done them doesn’t quite cut it for Gen Z, suggests Meier. “Pain points for modern students are patience and attention span.”
Meier recalls a recent college visit with his daughter. “At her orientation we stood in line for nearly 30 minutes waiting for her to get her student ID,” he says. “Just imagine how many Snapchats, Instagram posts or YouTube videos could be shared in that time showing a student’s dissatisfaction while waiting in line.”
Entrust Datacard’s TruCredential solution seeks to make card issuance more user friendly. “Having card software on the server is huge,” says Meier. “All ID capture stations can access card templates from anywhere, which frees up the entire process for card office personnel and removes the line for students.”
2. Access control technology
Modern students are arriving to campus having already experienced what cards can do, and many have already delved into the world of mobile ID. While the latter may not be an option for every campus right now, there are plenty of steps that can be taken to get the most out of the campus card.
Lack of information regarding advanced credentials could perhaps be the biggest detriment when making key technical decisions regarding access control. It’s for this reason that Meier prioritizes this discussion with campus card administrators.
Meier discusses with campuses key considerations like moving from low tech, low-security access technologies like mag stripe and prox to more high-tech options like contactless and mobile ID.
“It’s about security and being at the leading edge,” he stresses. “It isn’t tech-forward for a university to not use the student ID card for multiple functions across campus — access control, vending, meal plans, laundry, library, transportation — particularly when so many institutions are already.”
3. Articulate a vision for the future
Building on the idea of being tech-forward, Meier also stresses the need for campuses to be thinking about how they’ll innovate over time. “We try to make things modular, both in hardware and software, so campuses can add capabilities as they can afford it,” says Meier.
On the issuance side, there could be ways to expand on the fledgling distributed issuance model that has become so popular in recent years. “It’s increasingly common for institutions to deploy printers in the field,” says Meier. “It’s something we see more in Europe at the moment.”
Change won’t rattle the modern generation of student. They’re used to technology evolving at a rapid pace. Being able to identify new and different ways to refresh the card issuance process that also benefits the student experience will only further add to the value of campus card services.
4. Major recarding initiatives
Whether inspired by a technological change or more commonly a result of a university rebranding, Meier focuses on solutions that meet recarding demands, while also producing credentials in large batches.
“Students and their families pay a lot of money for a leading-edge college experience, and universities are keen to be viewed as tech-centric institutions. But that doesn’t translate if campuses issue low tech, basic looking credentials,” says Meier. “If the university has an overarching, tech-focused image, then the brand imagery on ID cards should reflect that.”
Taking that idea a step further, Meier suggests that offering card design choices to students could be a good starting point.
“Providing customization options for Gen Z is important. Campuses could offer cards that show they’re in a Greek organization, a certain school, or just offer different campus backdrops, a la a personalized license plate,” Meier explains. “Even if it’s just 6 different templates, that still caters to the desire for a personalized experience.”
5. Card durability/reissuance
Card reissuance is a fact of life at any institution. But barring lost or stolen cards, card office professionals don’t want the same students to have to pass through the office multiple times.
“In an ideal world, card offices will see students once as a freshman for the first and last time,” says Meier. “With that in mind, we want credentials to stand up to a student’s 4-5 year stay on campus.”
The modern student experience encompasses all of the touch points that a campus card supports. With its higher education solutions suite, Entrust Datacard is seeking to make that experience a positive one for students.
“Card issuance at orientation is just the beginning. It sets the tone for a student’s college experience,” says Meier. “A new and upgraded approach that starts with the ID card program ensures a positive start to the student experience for Gen Z and beyond.”