Rutgers University became the first major university that explicitly requires their on-campus students to present proof that they have received their COVID-19 vaccination before they will be allowed to participate in face-to-face learning this fall. This announcement from the New Jersey university1 has raised discussions about whether the vaccination should be mandatory or compulsory. It also may encourage other academic institutions to follow suit.
North Dakota’s Dickinson State University is now laying down a plan to encourage their students to get the jab—by incentivizing them by giving them a free pass on adhering to the mask mandate implemented campus-wide.
With coronavirus transmissions in densely packed areas like college campuses, requiring COVID-19 vaccination may very well be the most likely step in the bid for students to achieve a semblance of the in-person college experience.
Will the COVID-19 Vaccine Become Mandatory for Students?
In a survey conducted by College Pulse, 71% of students believe that colleges can require students to get their shots before going back to the campus. Besides the eagerness to return to their regular on-campus routines, the belief likely stems from students preferring to get the vaccine rather than adhere to minimum health protocols of mask wearing and social distancing.
While the Yes figures may be overwhelming, there remains a good number that are still hesitant about getting the vaccine. This opens the discussion on whether higher education institutions (HEIs) will require jabs for their students to ensure campus community safety and welfare.
But will colleges and universities actually make it mandatory?
Quite possible, yes: COVID vaccination may become mandatory if the government imposes it just how it requires vaccines for other diseases like mumps, measles, and polio for school admissions..
Experts purport that the mobility of college students should be a high enough risk to consider them a priority for vaccination. They are deemed heavy spreaders and often hang out in groups, which can have devastating effects on all age groups at risk for the virus.
“If we have adequate vaccine in April, it seems that, given what we have seen over spring break, that it is a very reasonable request that states expand that eligibility to allow college students to get vaccines,” shared Anita Barkin, co-chair of the COVID-19 Task Force of the American College of Health Association.
For now, the question is not whether it should be mandatory but whether there is enough supply to inoculate college student populations.
Impact on International Student Enrollment
In the higher ed sector, one of the most widely affected cohorts of learners are international students. Many of them have been stuck in their host country while others have been barred from entering because of closed borders.
Vaccine passports are touted to become a student’s armor to gain entry to host countries. These vaccine cards are not a novel idea, though. U.S. President Joe Biden has instructed starting a feasibility study of linking COVID-19 vaccinations with existing vaccination cards.
As vaccinations start rolling out, it may very well be the “passport” for these students to gain entry to their preferred school overseas. Why is this so? Here are some reasons:
Peace of Mind = Increased Enrollment
During the height of the coronavirus pandemic, many potential international students chose to delay their university enrollment. However, the availability of vaccinations influenced this decision as more and more students now consider enrollment for 2021, as evidenced by the QS coronavirus report.
In Australia, digital vaccine certification systems could mean the acceptance of international students in large numbers, which can revitalize the country’s academic funding, particularly as the Australian government considers international students part of their COVID-19 vaccination program. The same case is applicable for international students in the UK; they will also receive the vaccine like how they can access health care. This can result in less fear for their health, resulting in less deferments.
Emerging International Study Destinations
Israel is the country with the highest vaccination rate in the world. It is also rapidly becoming one of the best places to study in Asia. The nation attracts a huge number of students who wish to gain entrepreneurial knowledge and skills, as the country is known to have the highest number of startups per capita.
Japan is another emerging study destination for international students and is among the countries that would require vaccine certificates for non-citizens to gain entry into the country.
Similarly, the Chinese government already announced a ruling that Indian students who wish to continue their studies in the country would need to get a Chinese-made vaccine.
These countries’ response to the pandemic can pave the way for recognition in the international student market as they become viable options for studying overseas.
Blended Learning Opportunities
For so long, online learning strategies have been considered inferior to face-to-face learning. However, the current situation has proven it useful and potentially a permanent feature of learning. While there are still debates on the efficacy and safety of COVID-19 vaccinations, it presents an opportunity for HEIs to fully embrace technology through blended learning.
About 33% of post-secondary institutions are poised to include hybrid learning even after normal operations resume this year. Similarly, students are not hesitant to look for a different university if their program does not have an online learning option.
This way, international students will have the opportunity to attend their preferred colleges and universities abroad and get their degrees recognized by their potential employers and immigration authorities.
While a COVID-19 vaccination isn’t a silver bullet or panacea for academic institutions, it can somehow bring or restore a sense of normalcy for students who wish to continue their dreams of acquiring international education.
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