More community colleges are joining the campus card ranks, not only to give students more services, but to increase security. Grand Rapids Community College, with its 15,000 students and 1,600 liberal arts and occupational courses, is bigger than many universities. And with more than a third of its enrollees commuting to campus, controlling campus access and parking had become a major chore.
Enter Blackboard, which four years ago implemented its Blackboard Transaction System™ for campus commerce and access control. At the same time, the school activated the card holder account management module in the Blackboard Community System so that students could manage their RaiderCard online. Students have certainly taken to the program. A recent survey showed that 91% of all students said they were either “satisfied” or “extremely satisfied” with the RaiderCard program.
The system was implemented in phases with the first one being deployment of the Blackboard Transaction System to manage campus parking problems. Due to the size of the growing student population and the relative lack of parking at the urban campus, Grand Rapids cannot charge students an annual parking fee, because they cannot guarantee availability. So the system requires payment upon exit from the lot.
Using readers designed to work in a vending environment, students swipe their card to enter any of the three campus garages and then swipe once again to exit the garage. Upon exit, their RaiderCard account is charged the daily $2.50 rate. Possessing an anti-passback feature, each card can be used to enter the garage a single time, and to avoid fraud the card must be used to exit the garage before it can be used again to enter. Grand Rapids has also been able to automate the assignment of parking privileges. By linking the Blackboard Transaction System with its registration system, the college is able to automatically assign parking privileges for any student enrolled for the current term.
Phase two of the college’s implementation included deploying point-of-sale devices for dining services and a couple quick-serve restaurants on campus. “The positive impact was faster lines and increased sales,” says Paulo Teles, GRCC’s RaiderCard Manager. “We went from accepting only cash to a cashless environment.”
A Subway sandwich shop on campus saw a 15% to 20% increase in sales once it began accepting the RaiderCard. The third phase of Grand Rapids’ initial deployment plan included Blackboard door access and vending. With campus safety as a driving factor, the college installed approximately 55 door access readers, including two exterior doors per building to help regulate traffic.
Vending was the final phase of deployment, and Grand Rapids targeted 80% of the approximately 120 vending machines on campus to accept the RaiderCard. Machines were prioritized based on sales volume.
“Each year we were selling $1.2 million worth of 75-cent parking tokens, which was arcane,” says Eric Mullen, the college’s director of student life. “From an administrative point of view, the Blackboard Transaction System has allowed us to walk away from archaic systems and processes that were time consuming.” Grand Rapids estimates that it has saved $78,000 per year on the parking management solution alone, simply by eliminating the need to collect and process cash payments, while also reducing the staffing at the garage exits.
The RaiderCard program has helped increase parking availability on Grand Rapids’ campus by automatically allowing access only to current students and also increased speed of service. The average time to exit the parking ramp using tokens was 15 seconds, whereas now, using the RaiderCard, it takes only 5 seconds. In its first year, the RaiderCard program processed $2.2 million in parking fees and now regularly takes in more than $3 million in student deposits to the campus discretionary spending account.
Campus safety at the college also has improved. Gym locker room access is now managed automatically based on student enrollment status. For example, student athletes, health club members, employees and students are all assigned access automatically to their respective locker rooms. In addition, replacing lost keys has become far less cumbersome. The campus now has the ability to simply turn off access privileges in its Blackboard system if someone is no longer employed by the college.
Grand Rapids also uses Blackboard to help track student attendance and use of campus services. The system enabled the community college to eliminate the need for semester stickers, which the college had previously issued each term to more than 10,000 students, each of whom was required to visit the Student Life office to be verified as a current student. In yet another use, Grand Rapids also instituted a financial aid refund program that enables students to put up to $200 in financial aid dollars on their RaiderCard.