U Card system to serve other schools

by Brian Bakst

Although it’s not yet as popular as American Express, the Universal ID Card is gaining recognition as more than 10,000 Metropolitan State University students will become users this September.
U Cards were first introduced at the University in spring 1995, and 46,000 University students, staff and faculty members are already cardholders. The U Card supplements traditional student ID cards by providing cardholders with telephone calling card capability and library access, among other services. John Stearns, director of U Card technology, said more than 65,000 U Cards will have been issued by October on the Twin Cities campus. Two thousand cards have also been issued on the Duluth campus.
But Metro State will be the first university outside of the University of Minnesota system to use the card.
Kirk said Metro State chose the University’s package over those offered by three national card system manufacturers. The University offered the same price for the card system hardware as the lowest-bidding manufacturer, Kirk said.
Stearns said other state universities have expressed interest in the ID cards. Eventually, the University would like to offer the card to institutions on a national basis, Stearns added. “In sharing our development, we ought to ease the burden of paying (the loan) back,” Stearns said.
Along with selling its card, the University is also repaying its loan with revenues gained through its contracts with TCF Bank and AT&T Corporation, which provide access to their services with the ID cards.
Although the Metro State U Cards will offer services similar to University U Cards, the coloring and design on the cards will differ, Stearns said.
Like University students who have U cards, Metro State students will be able to use their cards at University libraries. Metro State student library records will be kept in a separate database from University of Minnesota records.
As the U Card program expands to other universities, U Card officials continue to develop new features for University cardholders. For example, by January, U Card officials hope to unveil a program in which the cards can be used to keep attendance, Stearns said. Students taking classes in which attendance is required would swipe their cards in a magnetic-strip reader to record their presence.
U Card officials are also negotiating with area businesses to develop a system in which the money stored in the ID cards could be used off-campus.