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New survey shows most students would accept vaccine requirements

A new study released by Maguire Associates shows that 85.1% of prospective first-year students would enroll in college classes if the institution enforced COVID-19 vaccine requirements. Non-white respondents would enroll at a slightly higher rate (87%) than white residents (83.8%) under these circumstances.

According to the survey, 93% of prospective students and 82% of transfer students preferred face-to-face or hybrid (face-to-face and online combined) learning models. Only 5% of prospective students and 16% of transfer students preferred a fully online learning experience.

The survey, which collected data from more than 18,000 respondents, hopes to inform decision-makers’ re-opening plans. Maguire Associates surveyed prospective first-year students, transfer students and parents of prospective students.

One major, undeniable issue emerged. Most students want face-to-face instruction. Getting a COVID-19 vaccine is not a problem for more than 8 out of 10 students. Nor would a vaccine requirement change their enrollment plans.

Prior to the pandemic, it was impossible to say how many students would prefer online learning over in-person options. The only data we had were enrollment numbers. During the pandemic, however, all students participated in online learning, and the results are in: most students don’t like it. In fact, they dislike it enough to change their plans when it is mandated.

The issue of virtual learning could be problematic for colleges that push online classes. That most students would prefer to do something else – including disenrolling – has serious implications for a business model that relies on online coursework. It effectively limits the number of students who would voluntarily take an online class.

The survey results also indicate that vaccine-skepticism increases as household income decreases. That’s bad news for community colleges, where low-income students congregate. Students from low-income household are less likely to vaccinate, which will compromise WCC’s plan to conduct in-person learning.

Vaccine requirements may be only way to control spread

It is becoming clear that a return-to-campus plan must include vaccination information campaigns, vaccination requirements and vaccination opportunities. Informing students about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines is only one step. Giving them an opportunity to get the COVID-19 shot is another. With new COVID-19 variants circling, vaccination and avoiding crowds is critical to controlling their spread.

Mandatory vaccination will prevent serious disease in those who contract it, and it can prevent the two worst outcomes – hospitalization and death – in most individuals. Re-opening campus in an environment that permits disease to circulate unchecked is not serving Washtenaw County or its students. Vaccine requirements may also be the only way to restore enrollment to pre-COVID-19 levels.

Photo Credit: University of Hawai’I West Oahu, via Flickr