Students who don’t follow college COVID-19 vaccine mandates are starting to face consequences.
A handful of schools are charging unvaccinated students thousands of dollars in COVID-19 testing fees to remain on-campus this fall during the pandemic. And some schools are imposing extra punishments: Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut, announced that along with fining unvaccinated students, it would cut off their campus Wi-Fi access.
Now, schools are starting to disenroll unvaccinated students.
Last week the University of Virginia disenrolled 49 students who didn’t comply with the school’s vaccine mandate, announced May 20. Students had until July 1 to comply.
In an email, the school said 99% of UVA’s students were in compliance with the mandate. The 1% who was not totaled 238 students, but only 49 of those had actually signed up for fall classes.
Xavier University of Louisiana, a private Catholic HBCU in New Orleans, confirmed to USA TODAY that it had also started disenrolling unvaccinated students on Monday, the first day of classes. University spokeswoman Ashley Irvin said the school of almost 3,400 students won’t have final numbers on how many students were disenrolled for at least a couple weeks.
Rowan University, a public school in Glassboro, New Jersey with an enrollment of just under 16,000, announced Monday that with the full FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine, students have until Sept. 7 to get their first shot. After that day, students who can’t prove vaccination or have valid declination form are at risk of having their “accounts put on hold, removal from residence halls (if applicable) and eventually, removal from the University.”
Does this mean unvaccinated students will be confined to an online-only education for the rest of their academic careers?
It’s possible, said Peter McDonough, the general counsel and Vice President of the American Council on Education.
“I don’t see the online alternative as something that’s going to be offered in most cases for somebody who makes a choice to not be vaccinated,” McDonough said. “If a person chooses to not meet a requirement they will, in all likelihood, have the same outcome of any other enrollment requirement that’s not being met, and not be invited to campus.”
Colleges that pivoted to online-only learning at the start of the pandemic incurred a huge cost, McDonough said. Keeping a hybrid option is not cost effective for most schools and making vaccinated, on-campus students pay more in tuition because some students are choosing not to be vaccinated hardly seems fair, particularly in an era “where we’re talking a lot about trying to keep higher education affordable.”
There is, of course, online alternatives for college — it just might not be at a school an unvaccinated student wants. McDonough said colleges can’t be expected to accommodate unvaccinated students. It’s more likely that they tell those students, “we’ll welcome you back when the vaccine mandate isn’t in place, or you can go elsewhere,” he said.
McDonough pointed out that there’s some form of vaccine mandates in all 50 states for K-12 students, and said it’s likely that the COVID-19 vaccine will be “required for a very long time” in many education spaces.
Since full FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine Monday morning more colleges, including Ohio State and the University of Minnesota, have mandated the vaccine for students. LSU is set to “fully review the approval from the FDA, but plans to implement the mandate on campus.”
According to the The Chronicle of Higher Education, more than 770 colleges are currently requiring the vaccine.
Contributing: Anthony V. Coppola, Cherry Hill Courier-Post