GWid numbers to take over SSNs

Students, faculty and staff better start memorizing those numbers.

Beginning Nov. 28, the GWid system will permanently take effect and personal accounts and information will no longer be accessible using a social security number.

While GW is one of the last universities in the Consortium of Universities of the Metropolitan Washington Area to separate student information from social security numbers, developers of GWid said they think that it is better-designed than other alternate identification systems.

The project, which had been under discussion for several years, assigns randomly generated ID numbers to students. GWid numbers were assigned last February.

Two databases making the complete switch to GWid that may have the most significant effect on students are the library databases and the GWeb Information System, which allows students to add or drop classes, view their tuition payments and select housing, among other online options.

“I’ve been quietly pleased with how (GWid) has worked out,” said Bill Mayer, associate University librarian for Information Technology, who worked as lead executive on the project for the past three years. “The library system converted to GWid a few months ago, and we’ve worked out the kinks.”

Mayer said that so far, students and faculty have not had any issues with the new system. If anything, he said, they are pleased to feel more secure online and not use social security numbers.

Alexa Kim, spokesperson for Information Systems and Services, said users have been informed of the transition to GWid and a retrieval page was created in case anyone forgot his or her number. She said that Social Security numbers will only be used in the Banner system for financial aid, payroll and tax-reporting purposes. All other databases will use the GWid as the primary identifier.

“The transition has been going really well. Everyone is happy to partner against identify theft,” she said.

While Kim said that there have not been any previous incidents of identity theft at GW, the system is beneficial to preventing any future problems. She could not disclose the cost of the project, but said she feels it is well worth its value.

Mayer saw staff development time as one of the major costs of the project. “I was taken away from my daily work while focusing on developing this,” he said. He added that the system will generate savings for the University since there is no longer a need to protect social security numbers.

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