Colorado’s $50,000 vaccine scholarships have dual purpose

While trying to protect younger populations, state also stresses importance of pitching merits of higher education.
By: | June 3, 2021
UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS/FRED ZWICKY

In an effort to get more representation from the age 12-17 group and to urge more students to attend college, the state of Colorado is randomly giving away 25 scholarships worth $50,000 each to those who get COVID-19 preventive vaccines.

Starting Monday, the state will be announcing winners over six weeks who will receive the major gifts through 529 accounts, which can be used at any institution or technical school across the country.

Currently, about 25% of students in Colorado ages 12-17 have received one dose of the Pfizer vaccine, which became available in mid-May. States across the nation see this group as key to boosting overall vaccination rates. In Colorado, 45.6% of the population is fully vaccinated, with another 10% having received the first dose. Those numbers eclipse both national averages, including those who have completed their doses (41%).

The goal for Colorado is to not only protect younger populations through this new campaign – part of the Comeback Cash sweepstakes that includes $5 million in prizes for the adults – but also to educate them on the value of getting vaccinated and attending postsecondary institutions.

“We know that the pandemic had a very significant impact on students and on education. We saw undergraduate enrollment decline over the last year and a half,” Angie Paccione, executive director of the state department of higher education, said during a news conference. “Many first-year students decided to take a gap year. And so this is a way, this scholarship sends a clear message to our state that we need you for our Colorado comeback.”

Colorado is the fourth state to offer huge scholarship incentives to students. New York already has started giving away some of its 50 full-ride scholarships to attend the State University of New York or City of New York systems. Ohio in turn announced the first of its five complete scholarships to any state college or university. And Oregon is also offering five $100,000 scholarships through its Oregon College Savings Plan.

Ohio’s VAX-a-Million campaign has gotten more three million new citizens vaccinated in the past few weeks. In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio has reported that 23% of 12-17-year-olds have gotten the doses. But that age bracket sits at just 22% overall in the U.S.

Indiana University’s vaccine stance: Indiana University backtracked in recent days on its vaccination requirement of students, faculty and staff. Well, sort of. IU said it is still mandating them, but individuals will not have to show verification. They will simply be expected to upload proof via an online form.

“Requiring the COVID-19 vaccine for IU students, faculty and staff with appropriate exemptions continues the university’s comprehensive science and public health-driven approach to managing and mitigating the pandemic on our campuses,” IU President Michael McRobbie, said in a news release Tuesday. “Throughout the pandemic our paramount concern has been ensuring the health and safety of the IU community. This requirement will make a ‘return to normal’ a reality for the fall semester.”

The initial mandate met with strong backlash from Indiana’s Republican leaders and attorney general, who noted that the requirement violated the state’s ban on vaccine passports.

Indiana University softened its stance, but not much. The university is asking students have their first doses done by July 1 and completed by Aug. 15. For those who don’t, IU notes on its website there will be “strong consequences” for those who don’t get vaccinated or have an approved exemption. That includes the potential for having registered classes canceled or the inability to attend events on campus.

IU said it is allowing exemptions for medical and religious reasons and is also not mandating vaccination for those in its fully online program.