Undoubtedly the COVID-19 Pandemic has forced the colleges, universities, and schools of higher education in the Duluth-Superior area to change their standard operating procedure over the last school year and a half.  And while most had looked forward to the upcoming 2021-2022 school year being as "close to normal" as possible, the recent rise in the Delta Variant has created some areas of concern.  That's left some students and families with all sorts of questions.

As things stand right now, there are a variety of knowns and unknowns.  Starting with the knowns, the return to a mask requirement while in-person learning has been solidified at "all the higher education schools in Duluth."  The Superior Telegram notes in an their article that while many of the schools had been removing protective equipment (things like barriers and plexiglass) in anticipation of the upcoming fall school year, most of them have either "slowed" that process of found themselves reinstalling some.

Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth

Additionally, that article details that all of the schools in the area (University of Minnesota-Duluth, College of St. Scholastica, University of Wisconsin-Superior, Lake Superior College) have plans to return  to in-person learning of some kind.  The article notes that UWS, Scholastica, and Lake Superior College are planning "full returns", while UMD will see a slightly-reduced form of in-person learning, where "88% of courses will be held in-person or in a hybrid format, or a mix of in-person and online learning"; that number at UMD contrasts with what occurred in the spring ,when "only 27% of courses...were held in an in-person or hybrid format".

One thing that all of the schools do agree on, though is the lack of an official mandate in regards to students getting the COVID-19 vaccine - at least for the time being. That Telegram article shares that "[n]one of the colleges and universities in the Twin Ports have plans to require their campus communities to be vaccinated against COVID-19, though it's an ongoing conversation for most".  It's also worth noting that for most of these schools, that decision wasn't made at the local level - but rather "at the system level...[for the public schools] which all operate within a statewide system".

Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth

That lack of a vaccine mandate is expected to change - at least for UMD - at some point in the immediate future.  At the state level, the University of Minnesota announced on August 9 that they would include a COVID-19 vaccination "to its list of required immunizations for students once any vaccine received Food and Drug Administration approval".   That approval is expected to happen sometime soon - and more than likely before the start of the 2021-2022 school year in the fall.  Common suggested wisdom is that more schools (and school systems) would follow suit once that FDA approval happens.

That lack of a current vaccine mandate however doesn't mean that the schools are doing nothing to battle the frontlines of the COVID-19 Pandemic.  Each of the higher-education schools in the area will continue marketing and messaging that encourages the receipt of the vaccine.

They're also making it extremely easy to get that COVID-19 vaccine.  UMD, Scholastica, and Lake Superior College will each have vaccine clinics located directly on campus.  UWS will do so also, albeit in the form of the community vaccine clinic that's already operating out of Wessman Arena.  Additionally, each of the schools  has plans to make COVID-19 testing readily available for each student that wants or needs it.

Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth

As far as incentivizing COVID-19 vaccines, two of the schools locally have instigated plans to get shots in arms.  Although, each of them approaches the situation from a different angle. UWS has a system-wide incentive campaign in place:

"[UW System President Tommy Thompson] recently announced an incentive campaign for students that would award 70 vaccinated students in the system, excluding UW Madison, with a $7,000 tuition award.  If a university's student population reached 70% vaccinated, those on that campus who proved they're vaccinated become eligible for the award."

On the other end of the spectrum - but similar in it's aim to encourage vaccinations is the College of St. Scholastica.  Scholastica is "thank[ing] every vaccinated student who shares their status by awarding them a small monetary gift of campus credit they can use toward tuition or other expenses."

Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth

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