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Mandatory vaccination policies grow among community colleges

A growing number of community colleges will implement mandatory vaccination policies for students and staff who return to campus. The move is an effort to protect the campus community from an expanding list of worrisome COVID variants. The delta variant, which is currently the dominant strain in the US, appears to more seriously impact both younger people and African Americans.

The Community College of Philadelphia is the first public institution in Pennsylvania to require the vaccine. Other public institutions have indicated that they do not believe they have the authority to implement mandatory vaccination policies. CCP is confident, however, that it is on solid legal ground.

Additionally, the school reports that just 7% of its faculty are currently unvaccinated. CCP staff have until October 1 to provide proof of vaccination. Students have until January 18, 2022 to report their vaccination status. Following each deadline, CCP will bar unvaccinated individuals from campus.

Washington state reports that nearly 75% of its community colleges will implement mandatory vaccination policies before allowing people to return to campus. In July, Washington governor Jay Inslee encouraged all Washington higher education institutions to develop mandatory vaccination policies. The state will require higher education institutions that do not mandate vaccines to enforce a series of health and safety regulations.

In-person learning, safety drive mandatory vaccination policies

Highline College President Josh Gerstman said that the vaccine mandate will make everyone on campus feel safer, facilitate in-person learning and enable the college to provide complete on-campus services. The vaccine mandate does not mean that Highline will deliver all classes in person in the fall. Instead, Highline College plans to deliver about 25% of its classes in person in the fall semester and -expand on-campus classes during the winter semester. Initially, unvaccinated students will need to seek a waiver to take in-person classes and must wear a mask while indoors. To promote vaccination for students, the College will also host vaccination clinics on campus every Monday in August.

The Lane Community College Board of Trustees approved a vaccine mandate for all faculty, students and staff. Trustees approved the mandate at the request and recommendation of LCC’s community – who overwhelmingly support mandatory vaccination as a route to returning to in-person learning. An LCC survey showed that nearly 93% of all LCC faculty, students and staff were already vaccinated or planned to vaccinate prior to the start of the fall semester. Lane Community College is in Eugene, OR.

Last week, the Board of Trustees at Ventura County Community College District in Ventura, CA approved a mandatory vaccination policy for the campus. About two-dozen California community colleges have instituted vaccination mandates. VCCCD students who are not vaccinated by October 15 may not come to campus and must shift to online classes. Trustees there cited a desire to improve Ventura County’s vaccination rate and bring an end to the pandemic.

Fall enrollment appears to slide again this year

While some community colleges are attempting to return to in-person learning with these vaccine mandates, fall enrollment overall is declining. In addition, fewer students have completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This usually indicates that fewer students plan to enroll in fall classes.

Returning to “normal” means conducting in-person classes, but it is not enough to institute an indoor mask mandate. Vaccinations work to significantly reduce the infection rate, and the incidence of severe disease and death. Masking is certainly better than nothing, but vaccinations have the demonstrated ability to bring an end to the pandemic.

Rebuilding enrollment, helping students recover from being in an inferior learning environment for nearly two years should be the priority. The only way to do that is to bring students back to campus as safely as possible, which means mandating the COVID-19 vaccine for all faculty, staff and students.

Photo Credit: Los Angeles District USACE, via Flickr