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A campus card is more commonly known as a student card or student ID card. It is an identification document certifying the status of a student. Campus cards are usually valid for one semester (possibly two), and at most universities must be renewed or extended after that, while for some universities it is valid for four years or for however long the person is a student at the college.
The National Association of Campus Card Users (NACCU) was responsible for the development of campus cards in July 1993.  Members of the board first met on May 6, 1993 at Duke University, where they discussed the potential applications of a campus card. At their first annual conference in February 1994, they shared their idea for all universities to transition to the campus card program. At that time, 150 institutions had already transitioned. NACCU also launched the NACCU-L listserv in March 1994 as a way for institutional members to interact and converse with other members involved in the campus card program. Membership and activities for NACCU have continued to grow over the years and remain very successful.
The campus card is the official university and community college student ID card. The campus card program supports the mission and vision of the university (or community college) by enhancing the overall college experience through access to a variety of services".The campus card is “available for individuals on campus who need access to services via a card", allowing it to "provide access to such amenities as borrowing books at the school library, attending school events,” and more. In some countries the campus card works as an official identification document. The campus card is also accepted as secondary identification by the State Department for a passport application. In other countries, the campus card turn valid only in conjunction with an official photo ID such as a passport or a driver's license.
The functions of the campus card, in addition to data storage for the student's identification, vary by University. Some examples of additional campus card functions are:
- Building access (Lecture Halls, IT-rooms, Dorms, Lockers, Sports facilities, Libraries, Cafeterias etc.)
- Equipment access (Computers, Copy machines etc.)
- Transportation access (Ticket for public transport, Parking permit, Car sharing or Bike rental functions etc.)
- Cashless payment for cafeteria, vending machines or shops at the campus
- Library card
- Social Security number
- Time and attendance control
- Exam registration
- Mobile phone and NFC Services
Campus cards with multiple functions can help simplify internal administrative processes.
The technology behind campus cards varies from university to university. For example, at Williams University the campus card is equipped with a magnetic strip that when read by a card reader allows entry into campus buildings. At Stanford University the campus card allows users a wide variety of amenities, the card is simply scanned by a card reader and the cardholder is allowed in. For some activities, electronic records are kept in Stanford's IT campus card system. This may raise questions of security, such as "What if my card got into the wrong hands?" and "Can someone find out where I like to spend my time?" In most cases, the answer is no. At Stanford University, the information held is minimal. “The campus card system electronically records that at a certain time, the card belonging to a particular cardholder was read by that particular scanner and whether access to that facility or service was permitted or denied." At UC San Diego the magnetic strip on their campus cards comes equipped with technology that allows for the card to be deactivated at a moments notice. Changes to the card can only be made by university equipment. At the University of Loyola in Chicago, the campus card allows access to multiple buildings on campus. This is monitored by The Department of Campus Safety. Campus cards have been proven easy to deactivate if lost or stolen, they have also been shown to be virtually impossible to duplicate. Carleton University the campus card "features extend far beyond a simple ID – it’s your library card, gym card, campus debit card, and door access card – all in one!" Although for entrance into dorm halls they require students to present ID and use a 4 digit pin making it a more secure environment.
Private enterprises such as Student Advantage Inc. are taking advantage of the campus card by investing in programs such as Student Cash, where students have the ability to use their student ID and campus card to make off-campus purchases. Universities like Nova Southeastern University and at Missouri State University adopted the campus card in 2006 and 2015, respectively, and hundreds of other institutions around the country have implemented a new system that moves away from the traditional magnetic stripe campus card to an upgraded campus card, often referred to as the “campus smart card”. The campus smart card uses an embedded chip that takes advantage of both contact and contactless radio frequencies. The contact and contactless radio frequencies were implemented in hopes of improving security and convenience to the accessibility of certain sections of the facility, commerce, and campus payment. Students are associated with several school and non-school activities all involving some form of a card, and the purpose of the campus smart card is to combine all of these separate cards into one unifying card.
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