University plans major overhaul of GWorld

The University is planning to drastically change GWorld technology for the first time in the campus card’s 10-year history, a senior administrator said this week.

For about three months, administrators have been analyzing upgrades to the GWorld system, and could make major changes as early as next fall, Executive Vice President and Treasurer Lou Katz said. One possible change would be a computer chip that would allow the cards to be passed over a sensor, rather than being swiped.

Though no specific upgrades have been finalized, Katz said the new system would be a complete technological overhaul – compared to smaller changes of the past.

“(W)e have to go to newer technology that over the long run will be more sustainable and improve our functionality,” Katz said.

Members of the Student Association are pressuring administrators to update the cards so that students can use them to pay for the Metro. SA Executive Vice President-elect Kyle Boyer said a GWorld card that worked for the Metro would be “more efficient” for students, as they would not have to carry around as many cards.

“I think vice president Katz and others have indicated a willingness to look into the possibility,” he said. Boyer is also working with Metro officials to reduce the fare for college students.

Students at Georgetown Law School already have cards that can be used both at the school and for the Metro. Citi SmarTrip Mastercards can also be used to pay for Metro fares.

Other universities outside of the District have already implemented contactless technology for on-campus purchases.

Liz Lucas, a financial assistant in the dining services department at Amherst College in Massachusetts, said their identification cards include three technologies – magnetic strips for purchases at the dining hall, bar codes for checking out books and proximity chips for getting into buildings.

“It’s easier for students because they do not have to swipe (the card) through. They do not have to take it out of their wallets,” Lucas said, referring to the proximity chips.

The switch was possible for a college with fewer than 2,000 students, she said, but for a school the size of GW, it would be “an enormous undertaking.”

The cost of the change at GW will likely be included in the 2009 operating budget, which will be released at a Board of Trustee meeting in May.

Katz said they are currently analyzing whether certain upgrades are safe to implement at GW.

“You want to be sure the system is secure itself, because just think about the debit card feature – that’s real money,” he said.

He added, “It’s definitely going to happen; it is what and when.”

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