Do smartphones negate the need for campus cards?

Dive Brief:

  • Campuses have long supplied students with ID cards to enter facilities, purchase food and do laundry, but in light of a student population more familiar with mobile technology, colleges should consider migrating campus cards onto students’ smartphones and mobile apps, Robert C. Huber writes for University Business.
  • Huber identifies “mobile millennials” as being particularly adept at making decisions and payments via their mobile devices, and he posits that universities should consider the amount of money saved if the uses of a physical campus card were integrated into students’ smartphones.
  • Huber says universities could cut the costs that accompany printing physical cards for each student, that it would no longer be incumbent on the university to replace a ‘lost’ card if the card is digital, and that institutions could cut overall expenses by at least 75% if colleges offered a “virtual credential” in lieu of a physical card.


Dive Insight:

There is no doubt that the momentum at universities is toward migrating more of the typical uses of a campus card onto smartphones, with third parties already seeing a potential windfall. Heartland Payment Systems created OneCard Mobile several years ago, which incorporated the means for students to conduct financial transactions, manage accounts, and open and close doors in one app.

However, institutions must consider whether getting rid of campus cards could be alienating or disqualifying to low-income students who may not own a smartphone  though a 2017 analysis by the Pew Research Center indicates that smartphone usage is becoming ubiquitous among 18-29 year olds, with 92% of people in the age range owning one. Analysts also noted a 12-point jump to 64% in smartphone ownership among households that earn less than $30,000 per year.

Despite this encouraging news, universities must be careful not to shut out potential applicants who do not own a smartphone. Schools could still use off-site card service bureaus to create physical cards if necessary, but universities should also avoid the stigma that could arise with not owning a smartphone. Several years ago, Seton Hall University supplied freshman students with smartphones during their summer orientation, which is one consideration for other institutions if they decide to transfer their campus cards into mobile apps.

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Filed Under: Higher Ed Technology
Top image credit: Hector Alejandro