In a deal with Commerce Bank and CyberMark, Kansas University will soon be issuing the cards in place of the traditional KU IDs.
To those with visions of Big Brother, the plan to introduce so-called "smart cards" at Kansas University could be called another step toward the mass computerization of campus.
To those who sealed the deal, the cards will simply provide more everyday convenience for KU students, employees and faculty.
This week, Commerce Bank of Lawrence and Tallahassee, Fla.-based CyberMark entered into a five-year agreement with KU to replace traditional KU IDs with "smart cards," which contain a microchip, magnetic strip and digital photo. The cards will replace the traditional KU IDs starting with spring enrollment, which begins April 3.
The partnership of Commerce Bank and CyberMark was one of 10 bids made to KU for the project.
The contract contains two three-year renewal options. It also includes provisions for KU to receive a portion of off-campus vendor fees and a percentage of deposits made on new accounts established through the card. Diane Goddard, administrative officer with the KU purchasing office, said KU would use the bulk of those funds to pay processing costs.
"The university is not going to make lots of money on this," she said.
Five banks vied for the contract. The other four were Mercantile, UMB Bank, First Bank of Kansas and Intrust Bank, N.A., of Wichita.
To make use of traditional banking functions of the card, including ATM access, cardholders would have to open a special account at Commerce Bank.
John Elmore, president of Mercantile Bank of Lawrence, said Mercantile Bank has a "significant student-customer base," and that the contract could have an adverse effect if cardholders decide to take advantage of the special account.
"There probably will be some impact on (Commerce) being able to gain access to (KU) student accounts," Elmore said. "But how significant that will be, I really don't know."
Even without a special account, using a microchip designed by CyberMark, cardholders will be able to put up to $100 in an electronic "purse" for incidental purchases, such as for vending machines. Cardholders will be able to add funds to the chip on their cards at "re-value" stations on campus and at a planned Commerce branch at the Kansas Union.
"You don't have to open an account," said Carl Bradbury, debit card manager at Commerce Bank said. "It's totally a la carte."
Long-distance services and library check-out capabilities will also be available.
Down the line, the card could be used to simplify enrollment, receive financial aid refunds, access transcripts, ride campus buses, access restricted buildings, purchase athletic tickets or settle medical bills.
There are also possibilities for Internet access.
CyberMark officials say transactions on the chip are anonymous, and KU officials indicated that demographic information is not provided to third-party marketers.
"Privacy concerns don't come into play," said Chris Corum, director of systems marketing for CyberMark.
Lost cards would have to be canceled, just like credit cards. The only danger would be to the small-fund accounts.
"Very little information is actually stored on the card," Corum said. "This notion of the card being all-powerful ... is really misplaced."
Other schools using or implementing CyberMark's card system are Villanova University, Florida State University and the University of Arizona.
Five of six Kansas Board of Regents universities are now involved in the new ID technology, including Fort Hays State, Wichita State and Emporia State. Commerce Bank contracted with both FHSU and WSU.
Last year, plans to institute a similar card system at Kansas State University proceeded despite a lawsuit from one of the banks that lost out on the contract, First Savings Bank of Manhattan.
In August, a Riley County district court judge threw out the lawsuit, ruling that it had not been filed in a timely manner.
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