The University of St. Thomas has become the latest Minnesota higher education institution to announce it will require its students and staff be vaccinated for COVID-19 before returning to campus.
The St. Paul college announced Monday that after initially running an incentive program to get students vaccinated, it will now be requiring the COVID shots instead.
The incentives it was offering included gift cards and discounts on tuition and study abroad experiences for students, discounts on professional development funds for faculty, and extra PTO for staff.
The university says that this incentive program has led to an overall campus vaccination rate of 78%, with the spread of the delta variant prompting it to escalate its requirements ahead of the new academic year.
Of that number, 89% of employees are vaccinated, and 75% of students, with the university having an enrollment of more than 10,000 undergrad and graduate students.
The public statement issued by the university notes that there remain "a number of people whose vaccination status remains unknown."
It joins the likes of fellow private colleges Carleton and Macalester in requiring the vaccines. At this stage, the state's largest public university – the University of Minnesota – will not require students and staff be vaccinated, nor will the Minnesota State college system.
"The decision is due to the highly contagious delta variant spreading rapidly and rising infection rates in Minnesota and beyond," the University of St. Thomas said in an announcement, and even with the mandate, it has warned the delta variant could impact operations when the new year starts.
"The University Action and Response Team said the decisions are also driven by the university’s desire to provide a safe, high-quality and uninterrupted experience for students and employees, however, CDC guidance could still impact fall operations."
It has not followed the U of M in implementing an indoor mask mandate, saying all unvaccinated people on campus must wear face masks indoors, while the vaccinated are encouraged to do so.