SUNY begins to unenroll students who didn’t comply with COVID-19 vaccine mandate

Dive Brief:

  • The State University of New York, the U.S.’s largest public comprehensive higher education system, has begun the process of unenrolling students who did not comply with its mandate that they be vaccinated against the coronavirus. 
  • SUNY gave students until Sept. 27 to be fully vaccinated. The system was following a state order that public colleges require the vaccine for students who participate in in-person activities. The directive kicked in once one of the three shots being administered in the country received full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 
  • The system enrolled roughly 394,000 students in the fall of 2020, and as of Friday afternoon, 5,903 students were at risk of being deregistered, said SUNY spokesperson Holly Liapis. 

Dive Insight:

Few students haven’t cooperated with the system’s mandate — 98% have complied thus far, Liapis said.

Although the system’s deadline passed, campuses can provide up to a 10-day grace period for students to be vaccinated, Liapis said. 

If students offer proof of vaccination during that period, they will not be unenrolled, but they won’t be able to participate in some campus activities such as athletics until they are fully vaccinated, Liapis said. SUNY’s policy allows medical and religious exemptions, as well as for students whose classes are entirely remote. 

The system has sponsored several social media campaigns to encourage vaccination since the shots became widely available. 

“There’s been constant education and communication around this,” Liapis said. 

SUNY is one of hundreds of institutions that have required the coronavirus vaccine for at least some of their students and employees. Many more policies have been announced since the FDA in August granted the Pfizer-BioNTech shots full approval for those age 16 and older.

Lawmakers in some conservative states have blocked colleges from being able to require the vaccine. This prompted the American College Health Association, along with dozens of other higher ed groups, to come out against rules that curtail public safety measures.

ACHA had also recommended colleges require the coronavirus vaccine this fall. 

SUNY is one of several institutions that will remove students from campuses if they do not meet vaccine requirements. 

The University of Virginia was among the first to move on unenrolling students. Nearly 50 U of Virginia students were deregistered after failing to follow its vaccine mandate, the institution said in August.

Other schools followed suit, either unenrolling students or threatening to, including the University of New Mexico, the University of Maryland, College Park and Virginia Tech.

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