From Free Tuition to Concert Tickets, Texas Colleges Attract Students and Employees to Get Vaccines



Texas A&M University in College Station and Texas A&M International University in Laredo dangled the possibility of earning free tuition and fees in front of students if they get the jab. In Lubbock, Texas Tech University is offering prizes like scholarships and free parking, while faculty and staff could win Tech football tickets and concert tickets to see singer Amy Grant and Alton Brown Live.

Other schools, from the University of North Texas to San Jacinto College in Houston, are also trying to get students and employees to get vaccinated with prizes such as scholarships, gift cards, and memberships. campus health center. The University of Texas at San Antonio automatically gives everyone a $ 10 gift card if they get vaccinated at their clinics, in addition to other sweepstakes.

The University of Texas at Austin said Thursday it will also offer prizes to students and faculty who have presented proof of vaccination, details to come.

The decision to encourage the vaccine among college-aged students also comes as more young people aged 18 to 29 in Texas are hospitalized with the virus, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Between July 17 and August 17, the hospitalization rate for this group increased by 279% in the state.

“We hear anecdotally from our health department that it is our age group or our student demographic that seems to be lagging behind in getting vaccinated to get vaccinated,” said Juan Castillo, vice president. of Finance and Administration at Texas A&M International. “The students think they’re invincible and ‘oh that won’t happen to me. “”

Young adults are also less likely to get the flu shot, according to the CDC.

Meanwhile, a state university system is taking a hard line against vaccination incentives. At a Zoom press conference on Thursday, Texas State University executives said they would not offer vaccine incentives because lawyers in the university system believe the governor’s orders are the worst. forbid. A spokesperson for the university system declined to answer questions, citing solicitor-client privilege. Abbott’s office did not respond to a request for clarification.

Money orders are not an option

Some universities have temporarily moved online courses or allowed faculty to switch to hybrid courses that reduce the number of students in one classroom at a time. But many schools are moving forward with plans for in-person lessons – and 100% capacity for football games, campus gyms, dorms, and mess halls, even if they may not demand to. vaccines or masks.

While some counties and K-12 school districts have challenged the governor’s ban on mask orders, higher education institutions have remained silent, relying instead on encouragement in social media campaigns , letters to the campus community and incentive programs.

Leaders at UT-San Antonio and the University of Texas at Dallas, both in counties where a judge has granted a temporary restraining order allowing the leadership to reinstate a mask warrant, said the changes do not apply to their campuses as they are state property.

In Texas, only a few small private universities have policies in place that are more stringent than encouraging people to get the vaccine. At Southwestern University and St. Edward’s University in central Texas, students must either get vaccinated or submit an exemption form. Paul Quinn College, a historically black college in Dallas, requires vaccines for students who wish to take classes in person.

“We demand that students have vaccines. We demand that they wear masks. We didn’t think this was anything particularly controversial because the science is very clear about it,” said Paul Quinn president. , Michael Sorrell, at NBC 5 earlier this week. Sorrell declined a request for an interview with The Texas Tribune through a spokesperson for the university.

Many college administrators are even hesitant to say if they think it’s safe to reopen college campuses without having the option of requiring a mask or vaccine.

“I’m not going to give my opinion on this. We’re just following state orders and what our leaders recommend here on campus,” said Chris Miles, director of emergency management at Texas Tech University.

“We are looking for touchdowns right now”

Professors and students across the state have increasingly voiced concerns about the reopening of colleges and universities as planned given the increase in the number of cases and the lack of authorized safeguards, urging leaders academics to reverse the trend.

The Texas chapter of the American Association of University Professors this week called on Abbott to allow college communities to make their own decisions regarding COVID-19 safety protocols on campus. The group highlighted the large number of immunization warrants at colleges and universities across the country, one of which was held up in federal court at Indiana University.

A student government group at UT-Austin, the Senate of Collegiate Councils, investigated and found that 87% of 1,112 respondents want a vaccination warrant for the fall semester.

And some behavioral economists who study the incentives are skeptical that the free meals and parking will convince enough students and staff to get the vaccine because the vaccine remains politicized.

“Any of those things could put a yardstick on the ground, but we’re looking for touchdowns right now because we’re in crisis,” said David Asch, professor at the University of Pennsylvania and executive director of the Penn Medicine Center for Health. Care. Innovation.

Asch pointed to a study of university students which shows that they are more likely to be persuaded to get the vaccine if others around them are also being vaccinated, the so-called “bandwagon.” .

He suggested that universities also focus on messaging campaigns that specifically share stories of colleagues and students getting vaccinated.

Castillo de TAMIU said the school was handing out shirts to vaccinated students to create some pressure on campus. Baylor University has also launched a campaign to share personal stories of students who have been vaccinated and why. A Baylor spokesperson said they estimate that nearly 60% of students have received the vaccine.

Asch said his concern was that while some of these methods are effective, they may not get enough people vaccinated to stem the spread of infections.

“And they risk being decoys or hijackings of the kinds of things that could really make a difference,” he said. “And that, at this point, I think these are warrants.”

Liz Hamel, director of public opinion and poll research at the Kaiser Family Foundation, said she found in her research that young people are more likely to be motivated by inducements than other age groups.

“We talked about taking each tool out of the toolbox to try and move smaller groups of the population at a time,” Hamel said. “This is how you will get a little closer to taking a bigger shot.”

She has conducted surveys on the perception of the COVID-19 vaccine throughout the pandemic. While the percentage of respondents who say they want to wait and see before getting vaccinated has declined, the percentage of respondents who said they “definitely” will not get vaccinated has remained stable since December.

Disclosure: Baylor University, San Jacinto College, Texas Tech University, University of Texas – Dallas, University of Texas at Austin, University of Texas at San Antonio, and University of North Texas have financially supported The Texas Tribune, a non-partisan, nonprofit information organization funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial support plays no role in the journalism of the Tribune. Find a full list of them here.

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