Here’s another reason to institute mandatory COVID-19 vaccines on community college campuses this fall. Earlier this week, Joe Garcia, chancellor of the Colorado Community College System, predicted that the system’s fall enrollment would decline. Garcia attributed it to the spread of COVID-19, via the highly contagious delta variant. Currently, the system’s enrollment is lower than it was at this time last year.
The Colorado Community College System is bracing for a greater than 6% decline in enrollment over last year. COVID-19 Is more severely impacting urban campuses. The Community College of Denver, for example, anticipates a nearly 25% drop in enrollment. Officials there attribute the massive drop in enrollment to student fears over riding public transportation during the pandemic. Additionally, the need to take care of family, and the fear of contracting COVID-19 on campus may chase students away.
Fear plays a major role in enrollment decisions. It stands to reason that mandatory COVID-19 vaccines could allay student fears of being on campus. People don’t usually classify attending classes at one’s local community college a dangerous act. The pandemic changes that calculation.
If preserving student enrollment is important, then mandatory COVID-19 vaccines should be part of any community college’s plan to return to in-person learning. Mask mandates are now making the rounds at community colleges around the United States. While mask mandates beat doing nothing, mandatory COVID-19 vaccines offer better protection for the entire educational community.
Increasing enrollment is exceptionally important to the long-term health of both the community college and the community. If students decline to enroll because they’re afraid of being exposed to COVID-19, or they prefer in-person learning, the only way to deliver in-person learning safely is to mandate the use of COVID-19 vaccines for everyone in the classroom.
Mandatory COVID-19 vaccines in Maine
The State of Maine’s community college system announced this week that it would require all students taking in-person classes to provide proof of vaccination before they can attend. Classes begin August 30. Student with only the first dose of a two-part vaccine can attend classes but must show proof that they’ve received the second dose within 30 days of the start of classes. Currently, about 70% of residents in the State of Maine are fully vaccinated. Despite this, Maine’s rolling 7-day average of COVID-19 cases increased by nearly 275% over the last two weeks.
70% of Maine’s eligible population is fully vaccinated, but that participation rate isn’t high enough to control community spread. This is important because this past week, Washtenaw County also achieved a 70% first-dose vaccination rate among people 16 years of age or older. While a 70% first-dose rate is better than most counties in Michigan, it will not be enough to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Beginning August 25, the students return to Ann Arbor. While UM students are subject to the University’s policy on mandatory COVID-19 vaccines, EMU’s students are not. Fortunately, there is a comparatively low degree of vaccine hesitancy among college-age students. They want to get back into the classrooms. But they want to do it safely. Mandatory COVID-19 vaccines are the best available way to ensure that.
Photo Credit: Alice Keeler, via Flickr