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College campuses phasing out traditional student IDs for digital ones

Penn State Lehigh Valley
Donna S. Fisher
For LehighValleyNews.com
The Penn State Lehigh Valley branch campus at 2809 Saucon Valley Road, Center Valley. Penn State's main and branch campuses are rolling out mobile IDs.

UPPER SAUCON TWP., Pa. - Out with the plastic, in with the pixels.

College campuses are ditching traditional, physical IDs for sleek and convenient mobile alternatives.

Earlier this year, Penn State University announced a mobile identification system as its new primary credential.

According to a university news release, the new system — mobile id+ card — will allow students to use their iPhone, Apple Watch or Android devices to access campus facilities and make secure transactions across the university.

“With the new mobile id+ card, students can simply hold their device to a reader to access residence halls and commons buildings, make transactions using LionCash, access their meal plans, make purchases at vending machines and pay for laundry,” the news release said.

The flagship campus at University Park isn’t alone. Other Lehigh Valley institutions are making the switch to a mobile-first approach.

Moravian University began using a mobile identification system for building access this school year.

Currently, there’s a process underway to evaluate mobile credentials at Lehigh University, according to a university statement.

“While there is interest in implementing such a system, the safety and security of campus and ease of use are top priorities and there is a significant process to go through before any commitments are made,” a Lehigh representative said.

Penn State branch campuses

Eventually, Penn State plans to install contactless technology at all of its campuses over the next year or so, including the Lehigh Valley campus.

The first to receive new electronic doors and mobile-card access readers are Penn State’s Beaver, Behrend, Greater Allegheny, Harrisburg and Mont Alto campuses.

“The university is one step closer to a seamless student experience.”
David Snyder, Penn State's assistant vice president for auxiliary and business services

Those five will be the first to adopt a mobile-first identification system in summer 2024.

The mobile id+ card has been in place for about a year, said Penn State Lehigh Valley Director of Student Affairs, Tom Dubreuil, in a statement.

“Although we are not sure when it will be implemented at the Lehigh Valley Campus, the plan is that by the summer of 2025, all residence halls, administrative facilities, and academic buildings at every Penn State campus will be upgraded with new card access readers and electronic doors that are compatible with the mobile id+ card,” Dubreil said.

Currently, Lehigh Valley faculty, staff, and students have the option to activate their mobile id+ cards. However, they will not work to open doors, enter buildings, or make transactions on campus.

Because the technology is being implemented in phases, physical cards will remain necessary until all university locations accept mobile-only transactions.

“The university is one step closer to a seamless student experience,” said Penn State Assistant Vice President for Auxiliary and Business Services David Snyder in a news release.

“Now, students can use their mobile id+ card to access resources and complete transactions with just a simple tap of their device, giving our students the freedom and convenience of a digital campus,” Snyder said.