Magazine article American Banker

Chip Card Dropouts: Universities of Mich., Ill

Magazine article American Banker

Chip Card Dropouts: Universities of Mich., Ill

Article excerpt

In setbacks for smart card adoption, the University of Michigan -- which had been one of the first colleges to give chip cards to students -- has reverted to magnetic stripe cards, and the University of Illinois, which had planned to adopt chip cards, has canceled that plan.

Since many smart card enthusiasts have expected that demand for chip cards would grow as more people graduated from colleges that put microprocessors in student identification cards, the moves by the two universities are significant.

The University of Michigan said the technology behind its six-year-old program had grown obsolete and updating it would be too expensive and not worth the effort. The University of Illinois said it encountered unexpected difficulties and expense in its plan to issue chip cards and concluded that the effort would not pay off.

Two universities -- Michigan and Florida State -- have been at the forefront of smart card adoption. Florida State said it would continue its program.

At the University of Michigan, more than 110,000 students, faculty, and staff members still carry chip cards, but those will gradually be replaced by magnetic stripe cards. The conversion will end one of the country's longest-running university smart card programs.

"Our system was cutting-edge in 1995, but the equipment we were using is outdated and slow," said Dave Doyle, marketing and sales coordinator for the mCard program at the university.

Though Michigan officials were intrigued by functions that vendors promised for the cards -- Java programs, computer authentication -- the upgradings required chips with far more than the 1K memory on the university's current set of cards. It could not justify paying $3 or more per card to upgrade, before printing costs were figured in, said Mr. Doyle. Loyalty, another highly touted program for chip cards, also proved to be too expensive for the university. …

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