ROANOKE — Students, faculty and staff at Virginia’s community colleges will not be required to be vaccinated to be on campus this fall, the state system announced Tuesday.
Glenn DuBois, the chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges, said the decision was made in consultation with the 23 community colleges. People who are fully vaccinated will not have to wear a mask while on campus, which is in accordance with the most recent guidance from the state and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
DuBois said that colleges are encouraging students, faculty and staff to be vaccinated, but the lack of residence halls and public health infrastructure at community colleges factored into the decision to not mandate coronavirus vaccines.
“And given our colleges’ offerings of short-term training and credentialing programs, mandating proof of vaccination may create an impractical and unintended barrier to student enrollment, thus diminishing our ability to deliver our mission at this critical time,” DuBois said in a statement.
With the fall semester a few months away, institutions of higher learning are making decisions about whether to require people to be vaccinated to work or to learn at campuses.
Just 416 among 5,300 institutions of higher learning in the country are requiring vaccines of at least some students or employees, according to tracking from the Chronicle of Higher Education. Some colleges have announced that they would require vaccination once the Food and Drug Administration gives formal approval to the vaccines.
The University of Virginia announced last week that it will require its 25,000 students to get vaccinated before coming to campus in the fall. Faculty and staff are encouraged to be vaccinated, but those who aren’t will have to be regularly tested. Virginia Tech and Radford University are still considering whether they will mandate coronavirus vaccines.
At least eight private colleges in Virginia, including Hollins University in Roanoke County, are requiring vaccines for students, faculty and staff for the upcoming semester.
“With the increasing availability of safe and effective vaccines, many at Hollins are already or will soon be vaccinated,” Hollins President Mary Dana Hinton said in a statement earlier this month. “Within this context, and in support of being in residence with an active university community, all students and employees will be required to provide proof of full vaccination in order to return to campus in the fall.”
Hinton said students should anticipate the likelihood that physical distancing in indoor spaces may still be required in certain situations or environments. She said in-person instruction provides the “richest educational benefits for our students.”
“Our overall goal, however, is to return as much as possible to the regular campus schedule and interactive community we knew at Hollins prior to the pandemic,” Hinton said.