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One of the minister's ideas is a phone-based barcode system.
Nathaneal Darrell/the Gauntlet

New minister proposes province-wide student ID

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University of Calgary students may soon be swapping their black and red "onecards" as minister of advanced education and technology Greg Weadick moves forward on an initiative to provide students across the province with a uniform student card.

The proposed card will extend across Alberta, allowing students access to facilities and services as well as transcripts at all post-secondary institutions in the province.

The biggest benefit that Weadick sees for students is access to the library systems.

"We thought it would be nice to have a student card that would allow access when you are travelling or going to different institutions to enter into their libraries," said Weadick.

U of C associate vice-provost of learning Darlene Warren said students currently have the capacity to borrow books from other university libraries.

"We have, within the province of Alberta right now, something that is called The Alberta Library," said Warren. "As a student of the U of C, you can get the TAL card and you can borrow books from all other participating libraries in the province, whether it is university libraries or public libraries."

Almost all post-secondary schools in Alberta participate in the program. The TAL card is free for students.

Weadick would also like to see transcripts accessible through this system, making it easier for students to transfer.

Weadick said not all transcripts are "easily or readily available on one accessible system right now."

Associate vice-provost of enrolment and registrar David Johnston thinks the Alberta system for transfer students is adequate.

"We've got a great process here in Alberta," said Johnston. "If students want to transfer they use the provincial application system. They tell us what program they want and within province we get their transcript automatically through that provincial application system."

Each university or college keeps their own student record system, said Johnston.

"The universities and colleges all have very good, secure and robust student records systems," he said. "So by having one system, I am not sure what problem that would be solving."

Weadick said the Council of Alberta University Students and the Alberta Student Executive Council, both student lobby groups, supported his initiative.

"We have had quite a bit of discussion with [them] and generally the feeling is if it will make life easier for students, they are fairly supportive of it," said Weadick.

CAUS chair and U of C Students' Union vice-president external Hardave Birk thinks having the Alberta-wide student card would benefit transfer students, allowing them to keep their identification number.

"Another possibility would be that the student card would have your permanent address and date of birth, so it could act as an official piece of ID," said Birk.

While Birk thinks the Alberta-wide student card is an interesting idea, CAUS would not make a statement about the card until more information is known about benefits and drawbacks for students.

"There will be pros and cons to this idea moving forward," said Birk.

Weadick would like to eventually see an application to allow students to carry the barcode from their student ID on their cell phones.

Warren was concerned equipment in the library would not be able to read the barcode.

"Different post-secondary institutions would have different capacities to integrate it," she said. "Larger institutions are more likely to be able to do this compared to the tiny institutions which have much smaller budgets, but anything that enables the sharing and ease of movement between the institutions I am all for."

Second-year visual arts student Sarah de Boer said she would use her cell phone only if she forgot her student card.

"I wouldn't use it as a regular thing," she said.

Weadick hopes the card will make it easier for students to access information across Alberta.

"It is all about making the process for our students easier and more streamlined," said Weadick.

Weadick will be discussing the possibility of an Alberta-wide student card more in the upcoming months.

"We are looking at what the opportunities would be, what the support levels would be and what kind of system it would be," said Weadick. "The biggest issue will be around the privacy of information and the hardware."

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