City College of San Francisco

College Prints Sharp-Resolution Student ID Cards in 15 Seconds

The City College of San Francisco is a large, urban community college offering associate degrees as well as non-credit educational experiences in more than 50 academic programs and over 100 occupational disciplines—to more than 100,000 students each year. Made up of 10 campuses, City College is a place of affordable opportunity for individuals from the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond.

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The Story


As one of the largest community colleges in the country, City College provides a quality, affordable education option for the Bay Area. To better compete with other area colleges and universities, the college has initiated a number of upgrades to its internal IT infrastructure.

In the admissions office, that meant improving the process of issuing student identification cards. Before, producing each card took a minute-and-a-half. Across 100,000 students, that time made for frustrating waits for students and exhausting days for staff during peak times.

"At the beginning of every semester, students formed long lines that spilled out the doorway of the admissions office," said Chinh Nguyen, IS administrator at City College. "This caused concern with facility management as the students were causing congestion and creating potential fire code violations."

On top of slow printing, as many as three out of 10 cards printed were defective, so the staff had to reprint nearly a third of all IDs, increasing production times, wait times and material costs for the office. In addition to faster printing, City College wanted to upgrade cards to include higher-quality photos and magnetic striping so students could use them throughout the campus.


City College of San Francisco chose to run a trial of Zebra® ZXP Series 8 printers. The retransfer printers create plastic identification cards with photo-quality images.

Zebra's patent-pending simultaneous dual-sided retransfer printing lets the college print both sides of the IDs at once—typically in less than 15 seconds total. Traditional printers require two steps to print both sides, extending processing times. The Zebra technology also works more smoothly and reliably, reducing the time and costs of reprinting IDs.

The vivid color and high image quality let the college print cards with its colors and logo to maintain school branding. It also enables much better photo quality than before, which students and staff appreciate.

With magnetic striping, future expansion will enable students to use their IDs like debit cards at campus-run dining locations and at the bookstore. City College is planning on extending the trans¬actional capabilities of the student IDs by linking them to local businesses for student discounts and offers.

We can print ID cards in just 15 seconds as opposed to 90 seconds before. Our admissions staff is able to work on different things instead of being fully deployed on card printing.

Chinh Nguyen, IS Administrator,
City College


With the success of the trial, City College of San Francisco chose to roll out the printers fully for the following semester. With the new system, the college now reduces time and frustration—and lines—for staff and students.

Across 85,000 students, City College now produces ID cards in just one-sixth the time it took before. For 85,000 students, that's a savings of more than 2,000 hours—dramatic time-savings for staff and students.

"We can print ID cards in just 15 seconds as opposed to 90 seconds before," Nguyen said. "Our admissions staff is able to work on different things instead of being fully deployed on card printing."

The labor savings has also allowed the college to put precious staffing resources to other tasks.