More colleges are requiring COVID vaccinations for fall 2021

Students, faculty and administrators alike want the college experience to return to normal as soon as possible. After a year of the pandemic and the quarantine blues, the development and distribution of vaccines has been our best hope for a brighter future. 

Numerous top colleges and universities have announced that COVID-19 vaccinations are required for students, faculty and staff who will be on campus beginning fall of 2021. Rutgers and Cornell were among the first wave of schools who announced this preventative measure, and other schools of high regard followed suit. Duke has said that their own researchers and students were part of the vaccine development process, so they believe in the quality of the product and are proud to require it beginning in the fall. Surveys show that about 71% of students surveyed support the measures, but it’s still a controversial topic for some.

Is this unheard of?

Although it rarely makes the news, vaccination requirements have been commonplace for decades. All 50 states have some form of vaccination requirements for children and college students attending public schools. Most universities already require measles, tetanus and hepatitis vaccines for on-campus students. Why the requirements? History shows that prior to the advent of vaccines in the mid-20th century, millions suffered from permanent disability and death from illnesses we’ve been fortunate to largely forget. With so many people in such tight spaces on campus, vaccines have eliminated some of our most feared health hazards. It was easy to overlook this until 2020. 

Is it legal?

Yes, and there’s an abundance of legal precedent for requiring vaccinations. Attorney and public health expert Renee Mattei Myers told CNBC that guidance from the Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have already set the record straight. 

“Under everything that we’ve seen, and the guidance from agencies like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Department of Education, it’s been stated that just like how [colleges] can require other vaccines like meningitis and measles and hepatitis for incoming students, that they could require this vaccine as well,” she explains. “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.”

Schools requiring COVID-19 vaccinations

Rutgers was the first to make it official, but many other schools have followed suit, including:

  • American University
  • Boston College
  • Brown University
  • California State University system
  • Columbia University
  • Cornell University
  • Dartmouth College
  • Duke University
  • Emerson College
  • George Washington University
  • Georgetown University
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • New York University
  • Northeastern University
  • Princeton University
  • Rutgers University
  • Stanford University
  • University of California system
  • University of Michigan (Ann Arbor)
  • University of Notre Dame
  • Yale University


Students enrolled in remote learning who will not be living on campus are not required to adhere to the vaccine requirements. All states make it possible to request a religious or medical exemption to school vaccine mandates. But there’s a growing challenge that could get in the way of school’s vaccination plans. Vaccine skepticism is at the highest levels of the modern era. Surveys suggest that one out of three Americans are skeptical about receiving the vaccine. Medical professionals have explained that herd immunity can only be reached two ways, vaccination and infection with the actual COVID-19 virus. Institutions of higher learning are hoping for widespread cooperation with vaccine mandates, not only to bring back the college experience, but also to save lives.

Need help getting vaccinated? Your college is ready to help

Schools are aware that it would be amiss to require COVID-19 vaccinations without helping students and staff to get access to the shot. All colleges and universities with the mandate are offering vaccinations on campus or at the very least are helping students to find available vaccine appointments. With the initial rush to get the shot winding down, it’s easier than ever before to find an appointment or walk-in. Check with your school’s health department online or on campus to find out more. August will be here before you know it, so don’t delay!

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