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Card, mobile credential, payment and security

Penn State’s mobile credential program serves students on 24 unique campuses with 81% adoption rate

Challenges of a multi-campus rollout met with the help of partner Transact 

Chris Corum   ||   Sep 26, 2023  ||   ,


At the beginning of 2023, Penn State rolled out Transact Mobile Credential to students, faculty, and staff. Among mobile credential programs, this one stands out because it was rolled out simultaneously across all 24 campuses of Penn State. In partnership with Transact, the campus team faced a unique set of challenges presented by this geographically and administratively dispersed project.

The move to mobile has been on the institution’s roadmap for nearly a decade, but it was completed in a short timeframe when the work commenced.

It started with a vision to improve security and have every part of Penn State across the Commonwealth offer a seamless digital campus experience,” says Mike Sherlock, director of information technology, Penn State Auxiliary and Business Services. “The project officially launched in early spring of 2022, with students beginning mobile provisioning in January 2023.”

We provisioned 14% of students on day one across 24 campuses and today 81% of students at Penn State have provisioned the mobile id+ card

Like most campuses transitioning to mobile, Penn State had a portion of the necessary reader infrastructure already in place. Still, in a system that supports 88,000 students on campuses throughout the state, there were a massive number of transaction points to enable.

“We started moving toward contactless, mobile-enabled readers during the pandemic,” explains Sherlock. “However, the bulk of the nearly 2,000 door, food service, vending, laundry, and off-campus program readers were replaced in the summer of 2022. We continue to upgrade readers across the Commonwealth, hoping to be mostly complete by 2025.”

Marketing Penn State's mobile credential program

Campus staff managed the coordination and installation of the reader infrastructure, while Transact assisted with IT support, marketing, and project management.

Watch at door access readerLaunching midway through the academic year meant that students activating the mobile credential would opt to do so without guidance and instruction from a new student orientation process. For this to be successful, a strong marketing campaign was essential.

Transact’s engagement marketing team and Penn State’s Auxiliary and Business Services marketing and communications team worked together to develop the campaign.

According to Sherlock, Penn State saw a record-setting launch for the mobile id+ card. “We provisioned 14% of students on day one across 24 campuses,” he says. More than 25,000 individuals had activated the mobile id+ card by the close of the spring semester, and as of September 7, 2023, 81% of students at University Park and the Commonwealth Campuses of Penn State have provisioned the mobile id+ card.

Challenges and lessons learned

As part of the longstanding roadmap, Penn State has embraced a mobile-first vision for the campus card and door access. Still, major projects like mobile id+ often require a transitional phase.

“Physical cards will remain necessary in the short-term, as access to (some) facilities and resources may still require the physical campus card until all readers are replaced,” says Sherlock. “Our goal is to use mobile as our primary method of payment and entry access before 2025.”

Deploying mobile credentials across multiple, disparate campuses creates challenges, even beyond a traditional migration.

“One of the critical challenges is the cost-sharing and logistics of replacing the current legacy card-swipe technologies with the updated reader hardware across University Park and all Commonwealth Campuses,” says Sherlock.

He advises other campuses embarking on this journey to remain flexible. “Each demographic connects to an institution differently,” he concludes. “We did a good amount of research and benchmarking before our launch and learned from all the schools and institutions that have gone before us.”

From Transact’s perspective, they were happy to share their experience to help make the Penn State project a success.

"Transact leads the way in providing a smart, mobile-centric student experience with a client-focused approach and innovative technology," says Rasheed Behrooznia, SVP and GM, of Campus ID Solutions. "This commitment to client satisfaction and future-thinking sets us apart, and we are proud to work with Penn State on a shared mission to revolutionize campus life.”


To hear firsthand about Penn State’s successful rollout, register for the webinar below:

Penn State’s unparalleled mobile id+ card launch

Thursday, November 9, 1 PM EST



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