On March 25, Rutgers University, a public university in New Jersey, announced that it would require students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 before coming to its three campuses in the fall. Rutgers may have been the first college to require the vaccine, but in the following days and weeks, many more colleges implemented similar policies.
In early April, The Chronicle of Higher Education published a list of colleges that had issued vaccine mandates. The original list had only about a dozen schools on it, but it is being updated daily, and as of May 17, it included 361 schools.
Initially, most of the colleges requiring the vaccine were private schools. According to The Chronicle, on April 22, only two other public institutions besides Rutgers had issued vaccine mandates. (One of those was Ft. Lewis College in Colorado.) By April 23, a number of other public schools had followed suit, including the California State and University of California systems. In Colorado, several private and public colleges will require students to be vaccinated before arriving on campus this fall.
Vaccine mandates vary from school to school, with some requiring the vaccine only for students who will live on campus, while others are requiring it for all students, faculty, and staff.
I reached out to all of my students in the high school Classes of 2020 and 2021 and their parents and asked what they think about this issue. Below are the responses I received:
Taylor Rippstein, rising sophomore at Colorado State University:
Starting at the University of Arizona was extremely challenging for me and I found that the pandemic made being out of state increasingly difficult. After transferring to CSU second semester, I was much happier but COVID still had a devastating impact on my experience. Thankfully, I had some friends from high school at CSU and was able to meet most of my friends through them, but I couldn’t imagine trying to meet people without this outlet. I joined a sorority hoping to meet new people, but even these sorts of clubs were forced to be completely online, making it impossible to meet girls in my pledge class.
I think it is great that colleges are requiring the vaccine as the school environment now is challenging and overwhelming for all students. I hope that the vaccine requirements will help encourage colleges to return to a form of normalcy. CSU recently announced that they will be requiring the vaccine. I have already been vaccinated and made this decision before my school announced the requirement.
Matthew Bannon, rising sophomore at the University of Miami:
It’s been a weird year because we had a curfew and so many things were closed and a lot of clubs weren’t able to operate like normal or weren’t able to do anything. I joined the scuba diving club but dives were limited to 10 people and because they were always picked using a lottery, I never got to go. Also, we didn’t get to have a club lacrosse season.
In terms of colleges requiring the vaccine, I don’t really know how they will enforce it. If everyone actually did get vaccinated, it would be a good thing, but there are going to be people who don’t get it.
Hanna Chin, rising sophomore at the University of Rochester:
COVID has significantly affected my college experience, which not only includes growing academically, but also building social skills and impactful relationships. With most of my classes online and with COVID guidelines on campus, my first semester was mostly spent in my dorm. I decided to stay at home spring semester because it would be safer, we could save money, and I didn’t feel as if I was getting the whole college experience due to COVID.
I think it is great that colleges are requiring the vaccine. Despite opposing views, colleges should ensure that their campus is as safe as it can be, and the vaccine is the best way to do so. My college is requiring that all undergraduates and graduate students be vaccinated. I am vaccinated and hope that my peers will do so as well if they can. Hopefully, with everyone working together, we can stop COVID from spreading on campus and in our community.
Chris Achenbach, parent of a rising sophomore at Washington University in St. Louis:
It was a very difficult decision. We were weighing the financial investment, as well as the potential personal loss of a year [if our daughter didn’t go to college], or that it would be a very diminished year [if she did go]. But she decided to go and about 50% of her classes were online and 50% were in person. Wash U was testing every other week right off the bat – it was mandated. The school did a good job of managing safety issues and generally things were able to loosen up as the year went along, so socially and academically, it was a success. We’re very happy that she went. Her experience was much different than a lot of other people’s.
I think schools should mandate the vaccine for the safety of all the students and the productivity of the year.
Charlotte Anderson, incoming freshman at the University of Southern California:
I am happy [USC is] requiring it because I’m vaccinated and it will hopefully mean we can go back to somewhat normal.
Lexi Emerson, incoming freshman at Pitzer College:
Vaccination requirements were not a factor in my college decision. I learned that Pitzer will be requiring students to be vaccinated after I committed and also after I was vaccinated. Knowing that they are requiring the vaccine makes me more comfortable to be living and coming in contact with other people and also confident that I’ll have a positive first year experience. Even though I did not factor vaccine requirements into my decision, I would be less likely to go to a school that I knew wasn’t going to require the vaccine.
Noah Mollerstuen, incoming freshman at Case Western Reserve University:
Case Western isn’t requiring the vaccine so far, but I hope they do by the time I go there. I don’t believe any of my top choices were requiring it when I decided, but it would definitely have been a factor if it had been required — probably not the deciding factor, but in general I would prefer a school that requires the vaccine.
Michele Remley-Hanna, parent of an incoming freshman at Ursinus College:
I am very hopeful that Ursinus will require vaccines. I am so glad that CU is requiring one since our older daughter attends there. I will be asking that [my younger daughter] have a vaccinated roommate when it comes time to put in requests. There is no excuse, now that vaccine is plentiful, for people not to get vaccinated. (There are excuses but they aren’t based on scientific evidence.)