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Unvaccinated students threaten colleges’ financial security

I don’t have a crystal ball and I have no particular track record on predicting the future. Regarding unvaccinated students, on August 12, I wrote:

“As the pandemic staggers toward Year 3, vaccination incentives will give way to vaccination mandates. ”

So, I’m not surprised that Quinnipiac University is fining unvaccinated students $200 per week. To add insult to injury, the University is also cutting off unvaccinated students’ access to the campus Wi-Fi network. Quinnipiac is not alone. Hundreds of colleges and universities across the United States have demanded that students provide proof of vaccination before allowing them on campus. Students who don’t comply face serious consequences.

The University of Michigan insisted that students, faculty and staff deliver proof of vaccination no later than August 30. While Big Brother was less specific about the consequences of failure, 92% of students have reported receiving the vaccine. About 90% of the faculty has also lined up, but a lower percentage of the staff has prioritized getting a vaccine.

Ohio State University has given its on-campus personnel until November 15 to vaccinate. OSU will not allow students who miss the deadline to enroll in the Winter semester. Unvaccinated students will also lose access to student housing and their student email. Rutgers has taken the same approach.

Other schools have been blunter about vaccine requirements The University of Virginia disenrolled 200 unvaccinated students this semester.

Although several schools cited the virulence of the Delta variant as motivation, a darker reality is at work. Each successful variant may be worse than the ones preceding it. Colleges and universities – by virtue of their relatively large, dense populations – offer good opportunities for community spread.

Unvaccinated students pose a severe financial risk

Mask mandates have limited value without comprehensive testing. In K-12 systems, with mostly unvaccinated students, masks make sense. The Los Angeles Unified School District, for example, has a rigorous program of masking and large-scale, regular testing. The result: a COVID-19 rate of just 0.5%. In school districts that make masks optional or do not offer testing, COVID-19 rates can approach 10%.

Masking is good when people have no other option, but it must be paired with regular testing to be effective. In addition, schools that mandate mask-wearing must also continually screen everyone on campus for symptoms of COVID-19. Frankly, it’s easier, cheaper, less time-consuming, and less stressful on everyone to simply require vaccination.

Colleges and universities, including Washtenaw Community College, lost millions of dollars due to the pandemic. Some have defaulted on loans. Others have permanently closed campuses, laid off staff or even ceased operations altogether. With the wide availability of the vaccine, there is no reason to repeat this kind of financial loss. Not implementing a vaccine mandate for anyone on campus is fiscal irresponsibility of the highest order.

We have a clear, effective, widely available solution. Use it.

Photo Credit: scattered1 , via Flickr