Are colleges requiring students to get vaccinated?

June 8, 2021
By AdmissionSight

Universities Requiring Students to Get COVID-19 Vaccine: Everything You Need to Know

Are colleges requiring students to get vaccinated?  COVID-19 pandemic has drastically altered the everyday functionings of colleges across the country. In-person classes were canceled, online school became the norm, extracurriculars were scrapped, and campuses became quiet.

Over the past few months, things have gradually started to return to normal. And with effective vaccines in full distribution, many are eyeing a potential return to normal. However, this has also raised the question about vaccine requirements, leading many students and parents to wonder “are colleges requiring students to get vaccinated?”

Students attentively listening to the professor

Yes, there is a growing number of colleges that have decided to require returning students to receive the vaccine in order to ensure all students and faculty members are safe. Understandably many students and parents have had questions about this requirement.

What schools have the requirement? Is it legal? Are there any exceptions? How many students will end up getting the vaccine? It’s a relatively new development, but AdmissionSight has the latest on these changes. Here, we’ll take a deeper dive into these requirements and cover everything you need to know about colleges requiring COVID-19 vaccines.

How many students support the vaccination requirements?

College Pulse conducted a survey to determine the level of support the recent vaccine requirements had among students. 1,000 college students participated in the survey and a whopping 71% said they believe universities maintain the right to implement a vaccine requirement for students before they’re allowed to return to campus. 10% of the respondents were on the fence, and 19% said they didn’t support these requirements.

A female college student outside of classroom smiling for the camera

Anne Schwictenber, College Pulse’s director of research, reports that the survey illustrates an eagerness among students to return to normal college life. Still, there are clearly still some reservations some students have about the efficacy of the vaccine.

However, another survey found that more students are supportive of requiring vaccines than other strategies used to mitigate the spread of the virus such as stay-at-home orders or mask mandates.

ACHA’s push for colleges to require vaccinations

There’s been a whirlwind of news reports over the past month as more and more colleges decide to require returning students to get immunized against COVID-19. But where did all of this start? Well, in late April, the American College Health Association (ACHA) formalized its recommendation for universities across the country to require vaccinations for students.

Here’s the ACHA’s official statement:

“The American College Health Association (ACHA) recognizes that comprehensive COVID-19 vaccination is the most effective way for institutions of higher education (IHEs) to return to a safe, robust on-campus experience for students in fall semester 2021.

Therefore, where state law and available resources allow, ACHA recommends COVID-19 vaccination requirements for all on-campus college and university students for fall semester 2021, in accordance with the IHE’s normal exemption practices, including exemptions for medical contraindications. This recommendation applies to all students who live on campus and/or participate in on-campus classes, studies, research, or activities.”

You can read the full report here.

What colleges are requiring students to get a vaccine?

There are over 100 universities and colleges currently requiring returning students to get the COVID-19 vaccine.


California Institute of Technology

California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

California State University system

Claremont McKenna College

Dominican University of California

Harvey Mudd College

Humboldt State University

Loyola Marymount University

Menlo College

Occidental College

Pitzer College

Pomona College

Samuel Merritt University

San Diego State University

San Francisco State University

San Jose State University

Santa Clara University

Scripps College

Sonoma State University

Southwestern College

Stanford University

University of California system

University of San Diego

University of Southern California


Colorado College

Colorado State University system

Fort Lewis College

Metropolitan State University of Denver

University of Colorado system

University of Denver

University of Northern Colorado


Wesleyan University

Yale University


American University

Bay Atlantic University

George Washington University

Georgetown University

Trinity Washington University


Nova Southeastern University


Clark Atlanta University

Emory University

Morehouse College

Spelman College


Columbia College Chicago

DePaul University

Loyola University Chicago

Roosevelt University


DePauw University

Holy Cross College

Saint Mary’s College

University of Notre Dame

Valparaiso University


Grinnell College


Berea College


Bowdoin College

College of the Atlantic


Johns Hopkins University

Morgan State University

University System of Maryland


Amherst College

Assumption University

Boston College

Boston University

Brandeis University

College of the Holy Cross

Emerson College

Hampshire College

Lasell University

Massachusetts State University system

Mount Holyoke College

Northeastern University

Simmons University

Smith College

Suffolk University

Tufts University

University of Massachusetts Amherst

University of Massachusetts Boston

University of Massachusetts Lowell

Williams College


Lawrence Technological University

Oakland University

University of Michigan (Ann Arbor)


Carleton College

Macalester College


Washington University in St. Louis


Dartmouth College

Southern New Hampshire University


Drew University

Fairleigh Dickinson University

Kean University

Montclair State University

New Jersey City University

Princeton University

Rider University

Rutgers University

Stevens Institute of Technology


Barnard College

Columbia University

Cornell University

Fordham University

Hamilton College

Ithaca College

Le Moyne College

Manhattanville College

New York University

Pace University

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Sarah Lawrence College

School of Visual Arts

St. John’s University

Syracuse University

The New School

University of Rochester

Vassar College


Brevard College

Duke University

Wake Forest University


Cleveland State University

Kenyon College


Lewis & Clark College

University of Portland

Willamette University


Bryn Mawr College

Drexel University

Haverford College

Lehigh University

University of Pennsylvania

University of the Sciences


Brown University

Roger Williams University


Wofford College


Maryville College


Paul Quinn College

St. Edward’s University


Bennington College


Hampton University

Mary Baldwin University

Virginia Wesleyan University


DigiPen Institute of Technology

Pacific Lutheran University

Seattle Film Institute

Seattle University

University of Puget Sound

University of Washington system

Washington State University system

Whitman College


Lawrence University

What legal professionals are saying about it

One of the first questions many students and parents have about these requirements is “can colleges require students to get vaccinated? Well, that’s a tricky question but not one without legal precedent. When speaking with NPR, Doris Reiss – a UC Hasting College of the Law professor – stated that “Most universities have the power to require vaccines.

But it does depend on what the college can do generally on vaccines and what they’ve done in the past.” Universities have to deal with federal, state, and local laws when making these requirements.

As a result, public universities have a tougher time than private ones.

In an interview with CNBC, attorney Renee Mattei Myers struck a more decisive tone by stating that colleges are allowed to require vaccines according to guidance from the Department of Education and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

She reported that “The EEOC’s guidance that came out in December made it clear and paved the way to say that employers can mandate vaccines and that this isn’t considered a medical examination, which is prohibited by the Americans with Disabilities Act.”

The legal precedent behind this requirement

One of the most commonly heard and easily understood arguments for these COVID-19 vaccine requirements is the fact that colleges have mandated that students receive vaccines for over a century.

The ACHA has pointed out that many universities require inoculations against varicella, rubella, mumps, measles, and a variety of other diseases that are avoidable with relevant vaccinations. The ACHA compares the COVID-19 illness with some of these “vaccine-preventable” diseases, essentially saying that the requirement is similar to what’s been done in the past.

Legal challenges have even arisen in the past surrounding some of these vaccine requirements. For example, the University of California was sued in 1925 by a student who claimed he had met the university’s requirements except for the smallpox vaccination. The presiding judge ended up ruling in favor of the university, further solidifying the mandate. A similar legal challenge was brought forth regarding school children in 2015 which was also ruled in favor of the requirements. Reiss said that she expects legal challenges to arise surrounding these recent COVID-19 vaccine requirements.

However, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) provided guidance in December that said there were no current laws that would keep employers from being able to require vaccines or from requiring proof of vaccination.

Are there any exceptions to the vaccine requirement?

Although it varies between colleges, there are some common exceptions to the COVID-19 vaccine requirement. Two of the most common causes for exemption are religious and medical reasons.

Many universities recognize that there are some extenuating circumstances that would make it harder for students to adhere to the mandate. In these instances, many colleges have outlined alternative options. Some of these involve online classes while others involve regular testing on-campus

FAQs regarding vaccine requirements

Are all colleges requiring students to get a COVID-19 vaccine?

Currently, there are around 100 colleges and universities – both public and private – requiring students to get the vaccine. Although more and more are announcing these requirements each week, there’s no reason to believe that all colleges will end up making this same requirement. However, it’s imperative that college students check with their current university or one in which they plan to attend to see what their requirements are.

Is it legal for colleges to require students to receive a vaccine?

There’s a long history of colleges requiring students to receive vaccines in order to attend. The primary difference this time around is how new the COVID-19 vaccines are compared to others that are regularly required. The vaccines have only received Emergency Use Approval (EUA) by the FDA so far. However, many legal analysts think that it’s within the rights of universities to mandate this as a requirement for attending in-person classes.

What happens if I don’t get the vaccine?

As many of these requirements are new, some colleges are still working out the specifics of what happens when students don’t want to receive the vaccine. Some have talked about continuing to offer online classes for these students so they don’t end up falling behind in their education.

Others have even discussed the possibility of allowing these students on campus but requiring them to take regular COVID-19 tests. Exact details will vary between universities and all of the specific questions should be routed to your college.

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