The State University of New York and Citibank are teaming up to offer a high-tech school identification card for the 800,000 students, faculty, and staff affiliated with the 64 campuses in the system.
SUNY, which is the largest higher education school system comprised of universities, four-and two-year colleges, plans to introduce the card, called SUNYCard, on a few campuses by early 1995.
And in less than two years, SUNY expects all 64 schools to be on board.
The SUNY/Citibank program is not the first high-tech card to penetrate the ivory towers of academia, but it does represent one of the most technologically sophisticated and the largest such endeavor.
There are an estimated 500 schools developing new card systems and 24 schools have some sort of advanced card program in place.
Only a handful of schools like SUNY, however, are combining banking and telephone calling card features with standard school identification cards, according to the Baltimore-based National Association of Campus Card Users.
Paul Melanson, president of the association believes that the SUNY/Citibank partnership could spark more schools to adopt similar programs.
SUNYCard, will replace a multicard system in which students carry several pieces of identification for various purposes like eating in the school cafeteria, entering a resident hall, or borrowing a book from the library.
Also, SUNYCard can be used at all of the participating campuses within the SUNY system.
Each card will reflect the unique identity of the particular school and the cards will include a digitized photograph, identification number, and two magnetic stripes.
Each participating institution will determine the number of features its SUNYCard is capable of accommodating.
For example, the magnetic stripes have separate optional functions.
One stripe is designed to store money and can be used at vending, photocopying, and laundry machines.
The other stripe could offer debit card functions and serve as a telephone calling card.
These services would require a personal identification number.
The debit part of the card will be an ATM card without the MasterCard or Visa logos.
Citibank partnered with MCI, Diebold, and Digital Equipment Corp. to provide the SUNYCard with a full range of services.
Gil Ruman, Citibank's product director of cash management believes that the distinguishing feature of the SUNYCard is its ability to offer so many different services all at once.
"We will have the core services available right away," said Ms. Ruman.
Eventually, added Ms. Ruman, Citibank expects to offer SUNYCard customers an full array of the bank's products like credit cards for example.
SUNY plans to fund the costs involved in producing the cards and installing special card readers on all 64 campuses by receiving a cut of the fees associated with offering the banking and telephone services.
"It is our belief that [these fees! will cover SUNY for its expenses," said a spokesman for the university.