Why does the University of Rhode Island charge $20 for a lost or stolen ID card while replacing a malfunctioning or worn out card is free of charge?

The Campus ID & Dining Services Office obtains almost $50,000 a year in replacement ID card fees at URI. According the Director of Dining Services, Steven Mello, the office replaces about 2,500 lost ID cards each year.

“If it only cost $5, students might not take time to go to their room to check,” Mello said. “Now they are walking around with five cards and four of them don’t work. I think mostly we have checked around other schools and they are around the same cost.”

According to the websites of several other in-state colleges, Rhode Island College charges $10 for a replacement ID, Brown (like URI) charges $20, and the Community College of Rhode Island charges only $5 for replacement cards. Some universities, such as the Rhode Island School of Design, charge less for a first replacement card, then more for each subsequent replacement.

Fees for the replacement of lost IDs go directly back to the Campus ID & Dining Services Office, Mello said.

“Those fees go toward helping to staff the office and handle the actual making of the cards,” Mello said. “The school pays for the physical cards, but we pay for ink, cameras and staff separately.”

Though some colleges charge less for replacements IDs, Mello said that they end up building that fee into costs. Some students, Mello said, keep their IDs for four years while others need a new one every semester. By charging for replacement IDs, only students unable to keep track of their cards are made responsible for the costs associated with creating them.

“The real questions is, why is Dining Services the ones making them?” Mello asked. “That goes back I think 20 years. They wanted to take it away from the police station. They didn’t want the police to have access to everyone’s photographs and information.”

The out of date system the police were using to create IDs was another reason the switch was made, Mello said. The police had an older arch printing system that required four people to be present at a time in order to create an ID card, Mello explained.

When the school decided to make the cards a requirement to enter the dining halls, it made sense to put dining services in charge of issuing the cards rather than the police, Mello said.

“The cards aren’t just used for dining,” Mello said. The cards not only work with a variety of campus services, but are accepted at over 35 separate locations.

This synchronization with so many systems is one aspect of why the cards cost so much to replace. Costs associated with the cards not only include the physical card, ink, and the printer, but also staff and software, Mello said.

Students who regularly attend URI’s Feinstein campus in Providence may have noticed a lack of magnetic strip on the back of their cards. This, Mello said, is because the only dining services at the Providence campus are privately owned.

“What we would need is a shared database between the two schools,” Mello said. “The cards may look the same, but a card from there wouldn’t work in the library here. Providence also doesn’t have a security system to deactivate lost cards. So a lot of work has to be done in order to bring them up to our standards.”

Students at the Providence campus also have very different needs. While students at the Kingston campus use their IDs for everything from dining to gym services, students in Providence mainly use their IDs in order to secure parking passes, Mello said.

“When I make a card here for a student I put an expiration at least four years hence,” Mello said. “There it might be a semester or a year. Some students are just taking one course. Here we have to make sure cards have parity to all the other systems on campus. Parking has their gate system, housing has theirs. That’s what we are in charge of doing.”