AT&T Corp. has reached out to students of California State University with a multi-application campus card.
The telecommunications company has dialed up a deal to provide a magnetic-stripe card that lets students enter facilities on the state university's 22 campuses, pay for meals, buy books at university bookstores, use vending machines, vote in school elections, and gain access to library and health-care services on campus.
An additional feature offers discounts on long distance telephone service for students and faculty members as well as the university's business calls.
College campuses have for several years been sought after by banks and other companies offering multi-application cards because they present a controlled arena for showcasing these products.
Citibank, for example, paired itself with the State University of New York in 1994 to offer the SUNY card, a product with banking and telephone options added to a traditional student identification card. It was issued to 800,000 students, faculty members, and employees on the system's several campuses. California State said it considered bids from banks but that AT&T ultimately won out.
"Many university campus cards on the market do not involve banks unless the cards have functions that can be used off campus," said Kevin Mullen, administrator for the National Association of Campus Card Users, Durham, N.C.
But the university hasn't ruled out an alliance with a bank partner.
"Right now it is a closed system, but there is the capability of extending beyond the campus for students who are interested in establishing banking relationships," said Russell Utterberg, senior director for strategic projects at Cal State.
The agreement has the potential to generate $72.5 million of revenue over five years if all 22 campuses, with their 330,000 students, sign up, said Patricia Allen, an AT&T spokeswoman in Elizabeth, N.J.
So far, campuses in Los Angeles, Bakersfield, Hayward, and Sacramento have bought the AT&T CampusWide Access System, to serve nearly 70,000 students.
Mr. Utterberg said 12 more campuses are expected to sign on in the next two years but the initial rollouts will start this summer.
Students can gain access to centrally held funds on deposit at the university with the swipe of a card, which includes their picture and ID number.
Mr. Utterberg said the AT&T system can be upgraded to incorporate smart card technology. Because smart cards are not widely accepted, however, the upgrading was not now financially viable.
"But we anticipate that within the next three years we will move in that direction," he said.