Students at the University of Texas at Arlington have been learning about debit cards since they were issued identification cards with a debit function.

The school is in good company; other universities with combined ID/debit cards include the State University of New York, the University of Northern California, and Florida State University.

UT-Arlington chose Diebold Inc. as its partner in this venture. The Canton, Ohio-based technology vendor completed installation of its Integrated Campus Access Management system by the time students returned from winter break. The system went live on Jan. 9.

"The system controls operating costs, increases revenues, and improves security while adding flexibility and convenience to campus life," said John Hall, assistant director of physical plant finance at the university.

All students are required to carry the ID cards, which are used to gain access to university facilities and events.

The cards can also be used to pay for goods and services at the campus bookstores, cafeterias, parking lots, the recreation center, a bowling alley, and the copy shop.

During the 1995 summer recess, the university intends to place card readers on vending machines as well, so students returning in the fall will not have to carry loose change to purchase soda or candy.

"About 10% of the students are using the card as a debit card, and we think that's pretty successful considering we haven't done any marketing," said Craig Zemmin, who runs the student identification card office.

Mr. Zemmin said the university has processed more than 12,000 debit transactions since the system went live. The average ticket is under $5.

These costs are deducted from an account students set up at the beginning of the semester. Students can place more money into these deposit accounts at any time. The accounts are administered by the university.

The university is, however, exploring the possibility of taking the debit card functionality to off-campus locations. If that were to happen, UT-Arlington would have to establish a relationship with a bank to handle merchant acquiring and processing.

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