More than 250 colleges agree to Biden Vaccine Challenge

With students still slow to embrace vaccines and a July 4 target looming, the Administration is asking institutions for their help
By: | June 3, 2021
Photo courtesy of St. Leo University

By the Fourth of July, the Biden Administration has set a lofty goal of having 70% of the U.S. population vaccinated. That goal likely will not be reached without a little assistance.

So, the President and his team are calling on colleges and universities to help lend their reach, resources and communications expertise to get students to sign on and get the nation past that target.

On Thursday, the Department of Education launched the COVID-19 College Challenge, effectively asking institutions to take a pledge that says they will strive to get their communities vaccinated. The ED says the timing is crucial as students head back home for the summer but will return for fall semesters in just a couple of months.

 “The College Vaccine Challenge is a terrific way for all postsecondary institutions to engage students, faculty, and staff in an effort to keep their communities safe,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “I encourage every college and university to take this pledge and get creative in becoming Vaccine Champion Colleges. We must all work together to beat this pandemic and put the focus back on students’ educational careers that will put them on the path to success.”

So far, more than 250 institutions have signed on to take the Challenge, which not only involves administrators but educators and students who can help boost those numbers in a variety of ways. Several prominent universities including Emory in Atlanta are taking part.

“Emory is committed to provide vaccine awareness, education and access to each member of our campus community,” said Amir St. Clair, Emory’s executive director for COVID-19 response and recovery. “We look to continue being a leader in our community and across the nation in providing each student, faculty and staff member with resources and access to get vaccinated — and doing our part to help the country reach its overall vaccination goal,” St. Clair says.

More than 400 institutions already have implemented vaccine mandates, but the majority of colleges and universities have not, instead encouraging and relying on their populations to take care of doses on their own. Some universities have reported as many as 90% of their populations have gotten, or plan to get, vaccinated.

However, many other small colleges have not polled students or keep current data on COVID-19 vaccinations. Even at large institutions in states where COVID vaccination rates are low, there is concern about the potential for COVID spread and variants as they plan to fully reopen. Precautions such as masking and social distancing likely will remain in place this fall at many institutions.

Community colleges are specifically being targeted in the campaign since very few have required vaccines and have populations of students that go on and off campus frequently. The Biden Administration said retail pharmacies and large community colleges will be working on combining resources to offer community vaccine clinics for staff, faculty and students. More than 6,000 mobile units already have been deployed throughout the country to help. Of the 250-plus institutions that have signed on to the Challenge, 60 are community colleges.

On social media, First Lady Jill Biden urged community college populations to get COVID-19 preventive doses. “If you haven’t gotten your vaccine, now is the time!”

What is in the Challenge?

With their vast networking potential, institutions are being asked to double down on the messages and commitments they’ve already made to try to get their students and employees vaccinated. To that end, the Administration is asking institutional leaders to ensure they are taking a number of steps to achieve those goals:

  1. Forge a plan to get everyone vaccinated now. Ensure that community members understand their eligibility and the resources available, including how they can get vaccinated and the safety and efficacy of vaccines in a variety of languages, if possible.
  • Champion the cause. Gather key campus stakeholders to form a plan for how to get more of the population vaccinated. Delegate responsibilities to those leaders and spread the word on social media and other outlets. The goal is to get students vaccinated this summer … not just by the fall.
  1. Provide vaccine access. Not having a plan for how students and staff will get vaccinated – or just asking them to get shots – is not going to reach goals and get your campus operating near normal in the fall. Make it as easy as possible for them to get vaccinated. Bring vaccines onto campus and partner with local organizations. Do the scheduling for students. Give employees incentives, such as time off to get them done. Most of all, keep track of data on who is being vaccinated and when. Have students enter the vaccine information into portals.

The Biden Administration also has pitched to institutions the availability of resources through the COVID-19 Community Corps that offers “regular training sessions for college and student leaders to organize and become vaccine champions in their communities.”

Colleges that have accepted the Challenge include:

ALABAMA: University of Alabama, Birmingham

ALASKA: Iḷisaġvik College

ARKANSAS: University of Arkansas, Pine Bluff

ARIZONA: Dine College, Estrella Mountain Community College

CALIFORNIA: California State University, Fullerton, California State University, Northridge, Concordia University, Irvine, Harvey Mudd College, Riverside City College, Stanford University, University of California, Berkeley, University of California, Davis, University of California, Irvine, University of California, Merced, University of California, Riverside, University of California, Santa Cruz, University of San Diego, University of Southern California, University of the Pacific

COLORADO: Adams State University, Colorado Mesa University, Fort Lewis College, University of Colorado, Boulder, University of Northern Colorado

CONNECTICUT: Albertus Magnus College, Asnuntuck Community College, Capital Community College, Central Connecticut State University, Charter Oak State College, Connecticut College, Eastern Connecticut State University, Fairfield University, Gateway Community College, Goodwin University, Graduate Institute,Hartford Seminary, Holy Apostles College and Seminary, Housatonic Community College, Manchester Community College, Middlesex Community College, Mitchell College, Naugatuck Valley Community College, Northwestern Connecticut Community College, Norwalk Community College, Paier College of Art, Post University, Quinebaug Valley Community College, Quinnipiac University, Sacred Heart University, Southern Connecticut State University, Three Rivers Community College, Trinity College, Tunxis Community College, University of Bridgeport, University of Connecticut, University of Hartford, University of New Haven, University of Saint Joseph, Wesleyan University, Western Connecticut State University, Yale University

DC: American University, Georgetown University, Howard University

DELAWARE: Delaware State University

FLORIDA: Barry University, Florida A&M, Rollins College

GEORGIA: Agnes Scott College, Emory University

HAWAII: University of Hawaiʻi, Mānoa, University of Hawaiʻi, Hilo, University of Hawaiʻi, West Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi Community College, Honolulu Community College, Kapiʻolani Community College, Kauaʻi Community College, Leeward Community College, Maui College, Windward Community College

IOWA: Des Moines Area Community College

IDAHO: Boise State University, Idaho State University, Lewis-Clark State College

ILLINOIS: Elgin Community College, Loyola University Chicago, Moraine Valley Community College

INDIANA: Purdue University

KANSAS: Johnson County Community College

KENTUCKY: Jefferson Community and Technical College, University of Pikeville

LOUISIANA: Grambling State University, Southern University and A&M College, Tulane University

MASSACHUSETTS: Babson College, Bentley University, Boston University, Brandeis University, Bristol Community College, College of our Lady of the Elms/Elms College, College of the Holy Cross, Dean College, Emmanuel College, Framingham State University, Hampshire College, Harvard University, Lasell University, Lesley University, New England Conservatory, Northeastern University, Regis College, Smith College, Wellesley College, Wheaton College, Williams College

MARYLAND: Bowie State University, Harford Community College, Johns Hopkins University, Morgan State University, Notre Dame of Maryland University, Prince George’s Community College, Salisbury University, Towson University, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

MICHIGAN: Bay Mills Community College, Central Michigan University, Eastern Michigan University, Ferris State University, Glen Oaks Community College, Grand Valley State University, Henry Ford Community College, Kalamazoo Valley Community College, Lake Superior State University, Macomb Community College, Michigan State University, Michigan Technological University, Muskegon Community College, Northern Michigan University, Northwestern Michigan College, Oakland University, Saginaw Chippewa Tribal College, Saginaw Valley State University, University of Michigan, University of Michigan – Dearborn, University of Michigan – Flint, Wayne State University, Western Michigan University

MINNESOTA: Carleton College, Hamline University, Macalester College, White Earth Tribal and Community College

MISSISSIPPI: Mississippi State University

MONTANA: Blackfeet Community College, Chief Dull Knife College, Fort Peck Community College, Little Big Horn College, Montana State University, Billings, Montana Technological University, Salish Kootenai College

NORTH CAROLINA: Brevard College, University of North Carolina, Asheville, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina, Wilmington, Wake Technical Community College, Winston-Salem State University

NORTH DAKOTA: Candkeska Cikana Community College, Sitting Bull College, United Tribes Technical College

NEBRASKA: Little Priest Tribal College, Nebraska Indian Community College

NEW HAMPSHIRE: Dartmouth College, Southern New Hampshire University

NEW JERSEY: College of New Jersey, Montclair State University, New Jersey City University, Rider University, Stevens Institute of Technology, Stockton University

NEW MEXICO: Central New Mexico Community College, Institute of American Indian and Alaska Native Culture and Arts Development, Institute of American Indian Arts, Navajo Technical University, University of New Mexico

NEVADA: University of Nevada, Las Vegas

NEW YORK: Baruch College (CUNY), Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC), Bronx Community College (CUNY), Brooklyn College (CUNY), City College of New York (CUNY), Columbia University, Cornell University, Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism (CUNY), CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies, CUNY School of Law, Fordham University, Graduate School and University Center(CUNY), Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy (CUNY), Guttman Community College (CUNY), Hamilton College, Hostos Community College (CUNY), Hunter College (CUNY), John Jay College of Criminal Justice (CUNY), Kingsborough Community College (CUNY), Kingsborough Community College (CUNY), LaGuardia Community College (CUNY), Lehman College (CUNY), Macaulay Honors College (CUNY), Medaille College, Medgar Evers College (CUNY), New York City College of Technology (CUNY), New York University, Pace University, Queens College (CUNY), Queensborough Community College (CUNY), Rochester Institute of Technology, Sarah Lawrence College, Schenectady County Community College, Stony Brook University, SUNY College at Oswego, Syracuse University, University of Rochester, York College (CUNY)

OHIO: Bowling Green University, Case Western Reserve University, Clark State Community College, Defiance College, Ohio State University, Owens Community College, Sinclair Community College

OKLAHOMA: College of the Muscogee Nation

OREGON: Lane Community College, Linn Benton Community College, Mt. Hood Community College, Oregon State University, Portland State University

PENNSYLVANIA: Carnegie Mellon University, Haverford College, Montgomery County Community College, Muhlenberg College, University of the Sciences

RHODE ISLAND: Brown University

SOUTH DAKOTA: Sisseton Wahpeton College

TENNESSEE: Middle Tennessee State University

TEXAS: Prairie View A&M University, Temple College

UTAH: Ensign College, Salt Lake Community College

VIRGINIA: James Madison University, George Mason University, Hampton University, Norfolk State University, Virginia Commonwealth University

WASHINGTON: Northwestern Indian College, Seattle University, University of Puget Sound, University of Washington, Washington State University

WISCONSIN: College of Menominee Nation, Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe College, Lawrence University, University of Wisconsin, Madison

WEST VIRGINIA: Blue Ridge Community and Technical College