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Not much change in University of Minnesota-Crookston enrollment numbers, since vaccine mandate announced

The policy was announced on Aug. 9 by University President Joan Gabel. Under that policy, students will be required to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, then report to the university they have done so. The policy will go into effect once vaccines have been given full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which could happen in the coming weeks.

Crookston Bldg
The University of Minnesota Crookston received $1.35 million of High Education Asset Preservation and Replacement funding in a capital investment bonding bill signed by Gov. Tim Walz.

Administrators at University of Minnesota-Crookston aren’t expecting a decline in enrollment once the University of Minnesota system adopts a COVID-19 vaccination policy, though they say that could change in the coming weeks.

The policy was announced on Aug. 9 by University President Joan Gabel. Under that policy, students will be required to get a COVID-19 vaccine, then report to the university they have done so. The policy will go into effect once vaccines have been given full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which could happen in the coming weeks.

UMC administrators have not noticed any particular enrollment change because of the announcement, though they have fielded several questions about the policy. They’re hoping the policy boosts vaccination levels.

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“It is possible that some students may change their decision about coming to UMC, but we believe more may change their decision about becoming vaccinated, which is in the best interest of the university community and the public,” said Shawn Smith, director of athletic communication and interim assistant director of communication at UMC.

While enrollment hasn’t changed much, Smith said he has heard from faculty and staff members who say the vaccine mandate makes them feel more confident about working on campus.

The total number of students at UMC won’t be known until the school undergoes a census after the semester starts, but the website says it hosts more than 1,800 students, with half of them studying online.

The university draws about half of its students from counties in Greater Minnesota. About 20% of students come from the northwest Minnesota and northeast North Dakota region. About 13% of students there come from the Twin Cities/Metro area, which has higher vaccination rates than outlying counties, where people appear to be more vaccine hesitant.

In Hennepin County, which encompasses Minneapolis, 66% of the more than 1.2 million people living there have gotten at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to the Minnesota COVID-19 response website. To the east in Ramsey County, 62% of people have received one dose. Other metro counties show similar rates.

In Polk County, 44% of more than 31,000 people have received one dose. In both Red Lake and Pennington counties, 48% of residents have gotten a shot. East of Polk in Clearwater County, 35% of people have gotten a shot.

Much like at UMC, the U of M system hasn’t seen a noticeable change in enrollment, according to Rachel Croson, executive vice president and provost of the five-campus system.

“We haven't seen a significant change in our enrollment beyond what's been projected,” Croson said, in an online town hall meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 18, regarding the vaccine mandate, and the upcoming return to school. “We will of course continue to monitor enrollment closely, through census data.”

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U of M’s vaccine mandate applies to all students, even those who take classes entirely online. Students will need to attest they have received the vaccine by filling out an online form. Medical and religious exemptions will be allowed, but students need to provide notarized documents indicating they meet the requirements of exemption.

Students who don’t attest they have received the vaccine, may not be allowed to enroll in classes. The system has set a six-week deadline from the date of FDA vaccine approval, to show they have gotten the shots.

Faculty won’t be required to get vaccinated, but need to attest they have gotten the shots, or, if not, that they are undergoing regular testing, and will test if exposed to the virus. Students are mandated to get the vaccine because there is a long-existing policy that requires specific vaccines, including tetanus and others. No such policy exists for faculty and staff.

Things get a little more challenging for international students, who may have had a vaccination different from ones approved by the World Health Organization, from which the U of M system is drawing guidance. Administrators may make a case-by-case exception for those students, or they can receive an approved vaccine when they arrive on campus. International students can contact their campus administrators for assistance in complying with the policy. About 8% of students at UMC come from other countries.

In addition to the vaccine or testing mandates, people on campus are required to wear masks. Classes are set to begin on Aug. 30.

Related Topics: EDUCATION
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