Quebec student cards carry cash value

Students at Bishop’s University may soon find that one card really is all they need.

The Lennoxville, Que.-based school is the first in North America to test a multi-function electronic campus ID card with SMART features such as Mondex e-cash stored on a specialized chip. The all-in-one card, to be introduced this fall to students and staff at the university and the Lennoxville campus of Champlain College, is phase one of the “E-Campus Project,” a joint initiative run by the school and the Royal Bank.

Bishop’s University had been running a “one campus card” program for the last five years for functions like library services, meal plans, photocopiers, athletic programs and vending machines. A server on campus was used to keep track of funds stored in individual accounts. Whenever the students presented their cards, the funds were deducted from those accounts.

Steve Macknish, director of the E-Campus Project, as well as housing and food services for Bishop’s University, called the specialized chip functionality “the next logical step” for the campus’ student card.

“We were at a stage in our development that there was greater risk at not seizing this opportunity than if we were to do so. It brought us a lot of technical support from [the Royal Bank’s] systems group, and if we had not been involved, we would have risked losing a lot of valuable learning.”

The idea of the Mondex card took some getting used to for some people, he said. “People will erroneously believe that a SMART card knows more about the individual using it than the individual does. (But) it’s an off-line system, and what they are forgetting is that they may have been using an on-line system for many years. They’ve kind of got the shoe on the wrong foot.”

However, the students were the biggest supporters of the program when it was first proposed, Macknish said.