Program Grows at Columbus State University
Students know that handing in work on time is important. That timeliness is important in other areas of college life as well. Waiting two or three days for ID card support was the straw that broke the back of Rick Cravens, director of campus recreation at Columbus State University in Columbus, Georgia. Cravens, who is responsible for issuing ID cards to the 7,500 students on campus, was also the person who set up the ID card program at the university several years ago. He knew it was time for a change.
Columbus State University is a comprehensive university offering strong academic programs, a diverse and dynamic student body, a committed and dedicated faculty and staff, a beautiful landscaped campus, a variety of athletic and student activity programs and an exceptional level of community support. Now it also has a more responsive ID card program.
ACADEMIC ACCESSIBILITYSchools today are finding a wide variety of options to keep students and faculty safe, and in the process, are enhancing convenience, efficiency and productivity. Columbus State University is no different. Every enrolled student receives an ID card that can access a variety of amenities, including the fitness center, library, cafeteria, athletic arenas and computer labs. Housing administrators also use ID cards for dorm access and meal plans.
The use of ID cards has evolved naturally at the university. “We have used ID cards in the library the longest,” said Cravens. “Computer labs came next about five or six years ago, followed by the fitness center. It has been a natural progression.”
As most of Columbus’ students live off campus, administrators were first concerned with controlling access. “There has to be a way to regulate who can go where,” said Cravens. “This has become more important in the last four or five years. It’s easier to identify and control people with ID cards.”
Today, student ID cards are issued from the student center. Administrators print cards directly from the student enrollment database, eliminating the possibility of error and making changes easy. Using a badge design and database software, those printing the cards just have to add a photo. To prevent someone from printing a card from a non-enrolled student, the software prints a large “NO” across the front of the screen if the correct data is not found. To add another layer of security, Cravens recently moved the printing station from an open counter to a closed room and had an access window cut into the wall.
While Cravens’ staff prints student ID cards, Human Resources’ personnel print those for faculty and staff. “We used to print them all,” said Cravens, who admits to wearing a number of hats at the university, “but it became difficult to maintain two databases, so Human Resources took over the faculty and staff ID cards.”
THE ADDED BONUSESIn addition to cards for students, faculty and staff, Columbus State University issues a number of different ID cards. Students in the teaching program have their own ID card for access into elementary schools. The nursing program also provides separate ID cards so nurses can practice at different hospitals. “We print seven or eight different IDs from our machine,” said Cravens, “including some for the university police and retirees.”
In 2005, Columbus State University also initiated a debit card program for students. Debit cards not only provide a student benefit, but also help universities reduce administrative costs and simplify business processes.
The reaction of students to the debit cards has been “very, very, very, very good,” said Cravens. “I was kind of surprised, because many of the students and staff have never had a debit card before. It has been a learning and growing experience for them. They can use the card on and off campus. It was a good change for us.” Students who lose their cards can go online and request a new card. Because this takes about a week, students can have the university print a temporary card, which is good for two weeks while the bank creates a new debit card.
FACILITY STRENGTHENING TECHNOLOGYMany colleges struggle with the issue of how much technology to use for an ID card. With dramatic advancements in ID card technology, there are many options, and administrators are wise to look into the future as they consider their ID card program. ID cards on the Columbus State University campus use a bar code, but Cravens said he plans to add a magnetic stripe in the next couple of years. “The printer has that capability,” he said, “so we don’t need to upgrade. That’s one of the reasons we selected the Fargo [system]. We also may add card access to dorms, vending machines and copy machines on campus.”
Experts in school safety have long known that a photo ID program is a proven tool in maintaining security. Administrators know that it also helps strengthen a school’s productivity as well as student satisfaction.