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By Ana Lucia Murillo
July 28, 2021
A group of students talking on the Ohio Wesleyan University campus
Courtesy of Ohio Wesleyan

With the fall semester coming up quickly, some colleges are giving students extra incentive to get vaccinated by handing out scholarships worth up to $25,000.

More than 600 colleges in the U.S. are requiring students and staff to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Many other schools haven’t mandated vaccinations, yet they are encouraging everyone to get the vaccine — sometimes by way of financial incentives.

Ohio Wesleyan University, for example, is opening up 50 last-minute spots to new students who are vaccinated, and it's promising each at least $25,000 in scholarship money, a sizable chunk of change at the liberal arts college where yearly tuition costs total nearly $50,000. The University of Wisconsin system, meanwhile, is setting aside nearly $500,000 for a scholarship lottery for vaccinated students.

They're hardly the only schools using creativity (and money) to encourage student vaccinations. Throughout the spring and summer, other universities and some states have been offering scholarship money — as well as campus cash and other incentives — to students who are willing to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

With dormitory residences, cafeteria dining, close quarters in classrooms and students arriving from all over the country, college campuses almost seem designed for the spread of viruses. And colleges often face an uphill battle to convince young people that they need to get the vaccine. A recent study found a quarter of young people who are unvaccinated say they're unlikely to ever do it.

Now that the Delta variant of COVID-19 has been found to be more contagious than previous strains of the virus, and more than half of Americans between the ages of 12 to 17 remain unvaccinated, protecting students and campus communities from the virus remains top of mind, and schools are willing to pay for that safety.

Experts are debating the ethics and efficacy of handing out money for shots. In the meantime, many college administrations are committing to the method in the hopes that it will reduce the risk of their campuses becoming COVID-19 hotspots this fall.

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Colleges With Vaccine Scholarships

Here’s a list of colleges we know are handing out scholarships for some vaccinated students, often by way of a lottery:

Auburn University: Vaccinated students are eligible for weekly drawing throughout the fall semester, and prizes include $1,000 scholarships.

Central Michigan University: Students who are vaccinated can enter a drawing for one of four scholarships covering an entire year of tuition.

Colorado Community College system: Vaccinated students can enter a drawing for $1,000 and $5,000 scholarships.

Illinois State University: The Normal, Illinois, school is giving out 100 scholarships for $1,000 to students who have been vaccinated by the first day of classes.

Miami University (Ohio): The university is holding a weekly lottery for one semester of in-state tuition and fees (up to $8,128) and other prizes for vaccinated students.

Ohio University: The school is raffling off weekly $500 scholarships and one scholarship covering the full $6,324 to cover a semester of tuition and fees.

Ohio Wesleyan University: The school is releasing 50 last-minute admission spots for vaccinated students and promising each at least $25,000 in scholarship money. New students must apply by August 9.

University of Wisconsin (Madison campus is excluded): Students at UW campuses where 70% of students are vaccinated by mid-October will be entered into a drawing for 70 separate $7,000 scholarships.

Walsh University: Students who have been at least partially vaccinated will be eligible to win one of 10 scholarships covering spring tuition.

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