SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — As students are enrolling for fall classes, the local universities are not requiring vaccines.
This includes Evangel, Drury, MSU, and Ozarks Technical College. MSU is offering incentives for students who get vaccinated. In all, the incentives add up to $150,000. Director of Safety David Hall said the university has been looking into a vaccine incentive program for a while.
The incentives range from free tuition for a year, books, parking, apple products, and cash. Instead of requiring vaccinations, MSU believes this is the better idea.
“Part of it is a certain amount of responsibility,” Hall said. “We decided not to require vaccination, but we really wanted to encourage it. We would encourage it through incentives for those who are willing to [get the vaccine].”
Hall recognized the lower vaccination rates in Springfield. He said MSU is keeping a close eye on the uptick in the positive COVID case. Last fall, the university had an increase in positive cases. It’s hoping to avoid that this year.
“The CDC says it doesn’t require testing if you aren’t symptomatic and if you’ve been vaccinated,” Hall said. “For us, this will drastically reduce the amount of money that we have to spend on testing.”
Last year, MSU spent over $1 million on COVID testing for students alone. This does not include the cost of leasing apartments and renting out hotel rooms for residential hall students who tested positive. This year, MSU is requiring those who aren’t vaccinated and living in a residential hall to take a COVID test upon move in. MSU will continue to monitor the wastewater for an uptick in cases. It will then decide if it needs to conduct another round of testing.
Upon vaccination, students will receive a $25 gift card to the MSU Bookstore. From July to September, MSU will have weekly drawings for larger prizes. The grand prizes will be drawn in September. Right now, roughly 300 students have submitted a copy of their vaccination card to get the $25 gift card.
Mager’s Health and Wellness Center is offering vaccines after incoming freshman attend their Student, Orientation, Advisement, and Registration session (SOAR). Parents can also get vaccinated for free at the same time.
Riley Labee is an incoming freshman who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on Wednesday. He was having trouble getting a vaccine in his hometown of Bolivar. When he found out about the incentive program, he knew to get his vaccine at MSU.
“At first they gave the money number,” Labee said. “Then I was like ‘oh they’re going to give all that away?’ Then they said the first whole year of tuition-free and I was like that sounds pretty good.”
Labee is hopeful he will win the free tuition, but is excited to win anything the university is offering.
To find all the rules and regulations, and the full list of incentives, visit MSU’s website.