It's the one: BG1 Card to simplify campus needs

Beginning in mid-May, the University will introduce the BG1 Card to campus. This new identity and debit card will offer expanded services and access both on and off campus.

With the BG1 Card, students and employees will be able to pay for food in campus dining centers, “bursar” campus charges and make purchases in the University Bookstore and in participating downtown stores, says Jeff Nelson, bookstore director and leader of the BG1 Card Executive Steering Committee. Once fully phased in, the BG1 Card will replace the current City Bucks program with local vendors.

University Dining Services will be the first area to come on board, Nelson said, with others coming online throughout the summer. BGSU Firelands will also be included in the card program beginning later this calendar year.

The BG1 Card Implementation Team is working on applications of the card to the major areas of impact: payment, services and access.

Team members include representatives from undergraduate and graduate student governments, Student Affairs, dining services, the Bowen-Thompson Student Union, Information Technology Services, Residence Life, the treasurer’s office, Campus Involvement, the bursar’s office and the bookstore.

The changes involved with implementing the card will be phased in, according to Jane Schimpf, executive assistant to the president and a member of the executive steering committee.

Students entering this fall will receive BG1 cards as their student IDs. The new cards will look different than current ID cards, but the current cards may still be used.

New cash registers will appear in dining centers and other campus outlets, which will send the information to a central processing system.

Familiar name, added role
A company very familiar to campus will be providing the service. Blackboard Inc., whose Academic Suite of services BGSU uses for coursework communications between faculty and students on MyBGSU, has been chosen to administer BG1 Card transactions. The University signed an agreement with the company last December.

Blackboard is used by hundreds of schools in the United States and Canada, including more than 25 in Ohio, according to the National Association of Campus Card Users. The Blackboard Transaction System securely processes transactions 24 hours a day every day. Because of this, a lost card can be reported and canceled at any hour, which is a boon to account security, Nelson pointed out.

A seamless, automated process
While BGSU users will not see much difference besides the convenience of having one card for many uses, the big advantage is behind the scenes, the committee says. Under the new system, many previously disconnected processes will be integrated and streamlined.

Implementation Team members say they are excited about the labor savings offered by the new system. “Currently, financial transactions and identity verification using the BGSU ID card utilize many different systems, including some very dated and manual processes such as the application of validation stickers and putting financial data into Excel spreadsheets for re-entry by the bursar’s office,” Nelson explained. What once had to be recorded manually will now automatically flow to one central system.

Another advantage of the BG1 Card is that it permits more sub-accounts to be integrated, which had been a limitation of the old system. “There were things we just couldn’t include before,” he said.

Though BGSU had long wanted to upgrade and expand its card system, funding constraints prevented progress. But in October 2004, dining services learned that its Diebold cash register system would not be supported after July 1, 2006, which forced the University to begin the search for a new system in earnest.

Blackboard was chosen because it is already used in academic applications and for its strong reputation nationally in higher education.

Remaining issues to be resolved
The steering committee—made up of vice presidents Linda Dobb, Dr. Christopher Dalton and Dr. Edward Whipple; Chief Information Officer Bruce Petryshak; Brian Kulpa of Student Affairs, Schimpf and Nelson—is still working on issues such as potential changes to the BiG Charge system, where to set up a new Card Services Center to handle ID photos and issuing the cards, and replacing laundry and vending machine readers.

Members of the committee have met with campus student groups and offices to provide information and get feedback on the new system.

A national trend
Campuses nationwide have been going to “one-card” systems for the past several years because of the cards’ applicability to a wide variety of services and one-stop shopping, according to the National Association of Campus Auxiliary Services. “It is essential to be used everywhere possible, adding service and convenience to the card users and benefit for the participating department or merchant,” the association stated at its 2004 annual conference.
March 20, 2006