With more than 1.5 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses administered worldwide and the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) promoting loosened mask restrictions for those who have been fully vaccinated, America is rapidly attempting to return to some sense of normalcy. Recent changes have left many hopeful that college students’ return to campus will coincide with the upcoming fall semester.
Returning to Campus
It is no secret that education was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Around the globe, students have shifted towards online learning as institutions’ physical locations have largely remained shut down. In America, first-year student counts decreased by a shocking 16.7 percent in the Fall 2020 semester alone. Without income from student housing, athletics, and other social events – paired with falling student body numbers – higher ed is struggling to stay afloat. In hopes of opening back up for a more “normal” Fall 2021 semester, many schools are requiring COVID vaccines for all students looking to return to campus.
As of May 2021, hundreds of colleges and universities had announced that all students returning to campus for in-person classes would be required to get the COVID vaccine. To enroll for in-person learning or to live in campus housing, students will need to provide proof of receiving the vaccine. For years, students have had to prove that they have received other vaccines, including that for Meningitis, before arriving on campus, so this is simply another addition to the back-to-school checklist. Schools across the nation are adopting this policy. Notable institutions that will require vaccinations include Yale, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Syracuse, University of California, Cornell, and more.
Vaccination is still students’ choice, however. Vaccinations remain mandatory only for students who wish to attend class in person. Should a student not be able to get a vaccine due to medical or religious reasons, they can request an exemption that will be discussed on a case-by-case basis. If a student simply does not wish to get vaccinated, they will be able to carry out their education remotely online. Not everyone is happy with this decision, however, and some students across the nation have taken up protesting the mandate.
COVID’s Effect on Colleges
During the 2020-2021 school year, colleges saw a drastic rise and fall in COVID cases on campus. Numbers slowly rose in the fall semester before peaking in the spring and falling again as summer vacation approached. With vaccines becoming more readily available and cases in the United States remaining relatively constant, we will hopefully see a much more “normal” fall semester in the coming months.
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