To reduce the cost to distribute financial-aid checks, North Central Missouri College in January began depositing the funds into students’ campus card accounts. Since making the change, the school not only has saved money, “but we haven’t had any negative feedback, especially because students now have access to their money quicker,” Sharon Barnett, the college’s vice president of administrative services, tells PaymentsSource.

Shifting student financial-aid disbursements away from checks is just one of many developments causing significant changes to campus card programs nationwide. Indeed, universities and colleges increasingly are finding new ways in which the cards can save them money and increase convenience for students and faculty.

In the next five years, “we are going to see a variation on a theme of what we already have in terms of technology and business scope,” says Lowell Adkins, executive director of the National Association of Campus Card Users. Contactless and smart phone technology are the emerging trends that may cause further changes in campus cards, he says.

For financial purposes, campus cards started as a prepaid tools for small purchases on campus. Since then, various schools dabbled in smart card-based systems and cards tied to bank accounts and credit lines.

Emerging technologies also are starting to change the physical characteristics of campus cards.

While most campus cards will continue to use a magnetic stripe for the foreseeable future for most on-campus applications, “by 2015 contactless will become the preferred campus card technology, co-residing with a traditional mag-stripe for off-campus merchant and banking transactions,” predicts Robert Huber, a campus card business consultant with Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Robert Huber Associates.

Although more than 100 schools have implemented some form of contactless application, most solely for door access, Near Field Communication technology could increase schools’ interest in contactless payment, according to Huber. NFC supports two-way contactless communications between different NFC chips.

Bill McCracken, CEO of Atlanta-based financial-services research firm Synergistics Research Corp., agrees that contactless options will increase in popularity because many students prefer not to have another piece of plastic added their wallets, he says.

Schools slowly are starting to transfer the functions of their campus cards to students’ cell phones. “The smart phone is the appliance of choice for Generation Y. If you can take this tool and add more applications for things students need, it becomes a practical service for students and universities,” McCracken says.

Georgia’s Columbus State University is one of the first U.S. universities to design a mobile application for students. University programmers last July teamed with Google Inc. to develop the application, which since September has enabled students’ smart phones to serve as electronic campus ID cards supporting payments and other functions.

 

Mobile Applications

The school developed the application because so many students were losing their ID cards, which also served as a credit card, says Bob Diveley, executive director of operations and infrastructure for the university’s information and technology services.

The application’s two-dimensional barcode technology “is similar to what airlines use on a boarding pass and doesn’t change size from one phone to another,” Diveley says.

The application can operate on virtually any smart phone and requires students to log in via the Internet connection on their mobile phone. Once logged in, students may use their phones at the university’s handheld barcode readers to debit the cost of meals, buy books and check out library books, Diveley explains. Eventually, students may check their grades, see how much money is in their student account, and use a global positioning system for directions.

After conducting a test last year, Santa Clara (Calif.) University also decided to take the plunge into contactless. The university is the first to use Blackboard Inc.’s contactless university ID card, which supports payments and campus building access.

The card uses Sony Corp.’s FeliCa contactless technology, which also has been used in a number of NFC trials not involving campus cards.

Students may add value to their cards online, at standalone account-management stations or in person at the student card office, depending on how the university configures the program, according to Jeff Staples, vice president of market development and strategy at Blackboard Transact.

Additionally, Morehead State University in Kentucky and its six satellite campuses has been using contactless technology since 2008. The school uses CBord Group Inc.’s Odyssey Privilege Control System campus card program and iClass readers deployed around campus, Read Winkelman CBord vice president of sales, tells PaymentsSource. CBord’s partner, Irvine, Calif.-based security company Hid Global, supplied and designed the contactless readers.

The readers enable students to use their contactless cards to purchase meals, access campus buildings, buy books and obtain snacks from campus vending machines.

The change to contactless cards actually cost less than what the school paid for special-order mag-stripe cards, according to Doug Snedegar, EagleCard coordinator for the university.

Heartland Payment Systems Inc. also provides schools with contactless campus card services.

The company’s OneCard is a multi-functional campus ID card that also may serve as a prepaid card insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Universities also can distribute financial-aid funds to the card through Acceluraid.

The OneCard, which can be either a magnetic stripe card or contactless sticker, enables students to access campus buildings, vote in campus elections, check out library books, and track bookstore inventory.

The system is cost-effective for universities because “our software is modular in design, says Fred Emery, vice president and general manager of Heartland Campus Solutions. Universities can buy as many modules as they need, such as the dining module, vending module or door-access module,” Emery adds.

Schools such as Emory University, Hoftstra University and Mount Holyoke College use the OneCard system.

 

Financial Aid

Another recently added function for campus cards involves loading financial-aid disbursements into card accounts.

As Barnett noted earlier, North Central Missouri College officials are pleased with the transition away from using checks for disbursements.

The Trenton, Mo.-based school, which has nearly 1,500 students, during the spring semester this year made 1,387 financial-aid disbursements totaling approximately $2 million, she says. The college no longer issues paper checks to distribute financial aid and deposits funds into an account tied to the school’s campus ID card.

Students may use the mag-stripe ID card to check out books from the school’s library, pay for doing laundry and shop at national retailers that take Discover. Students also are issued a second Discover card, which links to the same account as the ID card.

Transferring financial-aid disbursements to students’ accounts did save the school money.

“Checks cost approximately 9 cents apiece and postage would be 44 cents each, for a total of approximately $730,” Barnett says.

The school also saved on labor costs because someone previously had to process and stuff the checks into envelopes, run the envelopes through the postage meter, deliver them to the post office and so on, Barnett adds. “I don’t really have a good solid figure on savings for the college, but it definitely is time-saving,” she says.

The college uses Heartland Payment Systems’ Acceluraid disbursement service to manage the card program. Acceluraid enables universities to electronically distribute financial-aid payments to accounts tied to student ID and general-purpose debit cards.

Central National Bank in Enid, Okla., holds the accounts for North Central’s program and uses a basic FDIC-insured prepaid account, says Bill Norwood, the director and chief architect of Heartland’s Campus Solutions Division.

Basically, “it is a dual-functioning, ongoing card that also includes automated deposits from parents and the ability to transfer funds from other accounts,” Norwood says.

Students withdraw cash from a dedicated ATM on campus from their account or the Discover debit account, Norwood notes. Cardholders pay no fees for the card, including when they use it to withdraw cash from the ATM.

Campus cards have come a long way from their conception some 40 years ago as a means for students to pay for meals. Now, not only do students receive enticing options, but universities and colleges also can reap cost-saving benefits.

Soon they may not even have to distribute cards. A smart phone application might suffice.

 

Sidebar

 

Schools Securing Card Discounts For Students, Too

Saving the school money is not always the key driver behind campus card programs. Several colleges and universities also are securing discounts for students who use their cards to shop at on-campus merchants, and some are getting a piece of the action.

“Some on-campus merchants may offer discounts if students use their cards to purchase food or other goods instead of using another credit card or paying cash. For example, some may offer a 10% discount,” Brian Adoff, sales manager at NuVision Networks Corp., tells PaymentsSource. For example, the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore, gives students discounts when they use their campus card instead of cash at vending machines, he says.

To help universities find the right merchants, the Napa, Calif.-based card management company recently entered into an agreement with King of Prussia, Pa.-based Off Campus Solutions Inc. to help provide schools with on-campus merchant discounts, Adoff says. Through the partnership, Off Campus Solutions recruits merchants and provides marketing support, Adoff notes.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison is the most recent schools to sign on to NuVision’s CampusOne program as an upgrade and replacement for its existing campus Wiscard system. The university’s new program will go live in July, enabling its more than 42,000 students to use their magnetic-stripe Wiscards to pay to do laundry, make purchases at vending machines, and to buy at stores both on and off campus.

The university chose NuVision because “they provided a more flexible application at an affordable cost,” Jim Wysocky, Wiscard program manager, noted in a recent news release.

The school also does not have to pay credit card processing fees because “our closed-loop One Card system does not charge transaction or licensing fees,” Adoff says. “The school saves on transaction fees while increasing revenue from purchases made at local merchants.”

 

 

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