Preparing Your Campus

Leveraging security and access control to create the optimal student experience

Creating a safe and secure learning environment has always been a top priority for campus security professionals and administrators, but it becomes more and more complex with the constantly changing landscape.

Now, for example, on top of this already tremendous task, campus security professionals must also address health and wellness, an issue brought to the forefront by the COVID-19 pandemic. After an incredibly challenging year, colleges and universities are preparing for the upcoming academic year with a focus on addressing these multifaceted requirements in an effort to provide the optimal student experience.

Healthier Buildings

Access control solutions have always played a critical role in increasing security at schools, especially as part of lockdown strategies and active shooter response plans, creating an impetus for schools to increase their investments in security technology. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, campuses will require a similar longterm commitment to successfully address the threat of this virus and future health safety risks.

One important element in creating and maintaining a safe campus environment is frictionless access control. A frictionless access control experience makes it is easier to manage access to an area without interfering with the user experience, makes it more functional in reducing touchpoints and enables social distancing. Three types of technology and solutions are key to the enablement of a frictionless access control experience: mobile applications, touchless solutions, and wireless technologies.

Mobile and remote applications enable distance learning from kindergarten through higher education. The technology grew exponentially in importance and adoption during the pandemic and will likely continue well beyond – particularly for credentials. Mobile access is now desired more than ever for door openings – both for convenience and as a means of reducing touchpoints during the issuance of credentials.

Limiting touchpoints throughout campus is a key tactic for creating a safe environment that allows colleges and universities to resume everyday activities. Because doors to classrooms and buildings across campus are a common and frequent touchpoint, touchless solutions can reduce the risk of virus or other germ transmission. For example, hands-free arm and foot pulls can be affixed to existing doors as a simple, cost-effective solution to reduce touch. Fully automated, touchless doorways can also provide complete safety and convenience, enabling the opening and closing of doors without touching or grasping hardware.

Expanding a campus’ existing access control system may seem like a daunting and expensive project. However, new technology can make a renovation project much more approachable.

For example, wireless access control solutions can be used to expand existing access control systems easily and cost-effectively with little to no construction or infrastructure updates.

Another important aspect of a healthy campus is understanding the impact that building materials, as well as the design and operations of a facility can have on the health and well-being of its occupants. Today more than ever it is essential that every component of a campus should contribute to a safe and healthy learning environment. Many building product manufacturers offer transparency documents that can help you understand exactly what materials are being used and how they impact our health.

Mobile Access

Ninety-six percent of 18 to 29 year old Americans have a smartphone, which is arguably the single-most important possession of college students today. Students rely on their phones for managing nearly every aspect of their lives, and have come to expect the same level of convenience with their school ID that is used for a wide variety of applications from dining, vending and retail to attendance and access.

Adapting your campus to support a mobile student ID may require re-examining your card office business model to determine what this transition means for your campus, and what additional services can be provided to enhance the student experience.

To ensure that you are able to meet this expectation to attract and retain students, prepare your campus with access control infrastructure that can support mobile access as soon as you’re ready to implement it. There are also many other important considerations, such as communication technology, credential issuer and credential type. While this may seem overwhelming, trusted partners can help walk you through this process to ensure a smooth deployment.

Student Housing to Accommodate Increased Demand

Campus housing has long been a critical component to creating a sense of safety and security for college students, and demand for student housing is continuing to grow. During the COVID-19 pandemic, requirements for single occupancy drove this demand, despite many colleges and universities facing declining enrollment for the 2020/2021 school year, as many first-time students delayed their first year because of the pandemic and its impact on their college experience.

As we look ahead to the next school year, we are likely to see continued demand for student housing due to an expected surge in college applications as a growing number of higher education institutions remove the requirement for standardized test scores.

The challenge is the ability to respond quickly and effectively to this increase in demand. With decreased revenue streams, many institutions are facing reduced funding for new construction projects. With new construction being so vital to supporting a campus’ mission, public-private partnerships (P3s) offer an excellent option for funding campus development projects. P3 projects offer a number of benefits, including:

  • A higher end living experience for students with better amenities than the more institutional residence halls traditionally found on campuses
  • Economic development for the local community
  • The ability to complete development and construction projects more quickly and efficiently, while still prioritizing the student experience

However, there are also important considerations to keep in mind as you embark on the P3 route. Private developers may not be as well versed in the campus card or student ID, and the significant role it plays in the day-to-day life of students. For a truly seamless integration into your campus, you’ll want to ensure any new development projects have the security and access control infrastructure in place to support the use of the student ID, whether it’s a physical card or a mobile credential on the phone. In addition, it’s vital that the sense of safety and security you’ve established on your campus is carried through to any private developments.

There are many factors that contribute to the student experience, but in our roles as security professionals, it is our responsibility to instill a sense of safety, security and well-being to create an ideal learning environment. Thankfully, there are many tools and resources at our disposal that allow us to do so. By working closely together, we can accomplish this important mission.

This article originally appeared in the May / June 2021 issue of Campus Security Today.


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