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On the same day Iowa’s Board of Regents promised it will not mandate that students, faculty, and staff across its public universities get a COVID-19 vaccine before classes start this fall, Iowa’s private Grinnell College announced it will.
In a Wednesday message from the private liberal arts college, administrators reported that students enrolled for the 2021-22 academic year will be required to get vaccinated.
And they’ll have to prove it.
“The efficacy of vaccines, as well as expanded vaccine eligibility and availability, allows us to address the higher risk of transmission in a communal living environment and affirms this additional step to protect the health of our community,” according to the Grinnell message.
As with all vaccines, administrators noted, students can request exceptions for medical or religious reasons. And anyone unable to get a vaccine in their home state or country will be able to get one at Grinnell’s Student Health and Wellness center once they arrive on campus.
“Within these considerations, proof of vaccination will be required for all students enrolled at Grinnell for the 2021-22 academic year,” according to the college.
Colleges and universities across Iowa recently have prioritized student vaccination — especially those with thousands on campus preparing to depart to their respective home communities in a matter of weeks.
Some of those efforts hit a snag this week, when federal regulators advised a pause in using the single-shot Johnson & Johnson option — although campus vaccination continues.
Grinnell, like many colleges and universities across the state and nation, this spring has promoted plans to welcome students back to campus in the fall for a more traditional experience and a “return to living and learning in community,” according to the message from Grinnell.
Grinnell last spring was among the first campuses in Iowa to announce the rest of its academic year would shift online. This year, most of its courses remain virtual, although some are hybrid or in-person with masks and distancing protections.
The college’s dining centers remain closed to in-person eating, using take-away options instead.
Grinnell, ranked as the 13th best national liberal arts college in the country by U.S. News & World Report, has canceled all in-person campus tours for prospective students.
Like many colleges across Iowa, the institution lost enrollment amid the pandemic — although Grinnell reported deeper losses than most, slipping 14 percent from 1,733 in fall 2019 to 1,490 in fall 2020.
Given that Grinnell is among the most expensive schools in the state — posting a tuition-and-fees sticker price of $56,680, more than 4 percent above the previous year’s $54,354 — the college has taken mitigation measures “in response to the financial hardship that many families are experiencing because of the pandemic.”
It’s eliminated student loans in financial aid packages and replaced them with scholarships.
Iowa’s public universities, all of which also saw enrollment losses and are facing increasing financial stresses this year, on Wednesday announced via their Board of Regents they won’t require students get a COVID vaccine before returning in the fall for a more normal campus experience.
Other local private colleges — like Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids and Cornell College in Mount Vernon — are encouraging students and employees to get vaccinated but haven’t made any decisions about vaccine requirements.
Cornell reported vaccinating about 200 staff, students, and faculty during a Wednesday clinic on campus, with help from Hy-Vee.
"Earlier this week we sent out a campus survey and learned that 97 percent of our campus community responding to the survey indicated that they plan to be vaccinated or have already gotten vaccinated with at least one dose,“ according to Cornell spokeswoman Jill Hawk.
Coe College in Cedar Rapids hasn’t issued any directives on vaccination; Wartburg College isn’t requiring them at this time, although it’s encouraging vaccination; and Luther College’s COVID-19 response team is “in the early stages of discussion on whether the vaccine will be mandatory,” according to spokeswoman Katie Schweinefus.
Vanessa Miller covers higher education for The Gazette.
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