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Colleges impose COVID testing fees of up to $1,500 for unvaccinated students

Colleges impose COVID testing fees of up to $1,500 for unvaccinated students

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Colleges impose COVID testing fees of up to $1,500 for unvaccinated students

COVID-19 vaccine: SCOTUS declines Indiana University vaccine challengeThe decision clears way for school officials at Indiana University to require students and faculty to be vaccinated to attend in-person classes.Staff Video, USA TODAYAt some colleges and universities this fall, it’s pretty straightforward: No vaccine, no class.At others, the approach is different: Unvaccinated students will pay fees of hundreds of dollars to cover the cost of having them regularly tested for COVID-19.Colleges and universities that are imposing the fees say they’re engaging in a delicate balancing act: They want to protect everyone on campus and facilitate in-person classes while finding a way to pay the bill for COVID testing of students who haven’t received shots. In most situations, vaccinated students aren’t subject to testing.COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective at preventing infection and serious cases. A small percentage of people who are fully vaccinated will still get sick if they’re exposed to the virus, but people who have had breakthrough infections are much less likely to get severely ill or die.►Won’t get a COVID-19 vaccine?: Some bosses may charge you $20 to $50 more for health insurance on every paycheck►Weight-loss businesses face a dilemma: Would encouraging Americans to lose weight be a form of body shaming?Schools that have announced fall-semester COVID testing fees so far have been based solely in states dominated by Republicans, some of whom have opposed or even outlawed mandates:• Birmingham-Southern College in Birmingham, Alabama: $500.“We think it’s important that the people that are requiring us to test them pay for those tests,” said Daniel Coleman, president of Birmingham-Southern College. “I don’t think it’s right for the people who don’t need to be tested to pay for those who choose not to be vaccinated.”• West Virginia Wesleyan College in Buckhannon, West Virginia: $750.“Students who do not submit a proof of vaccination status or who are not vaccinated will be required to undergo weekly surveillance testing,” the university said on its website. “The cost will be covered by the Covid Fee charged to all unvaccinated students.”• Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee: $1,500.That fee was announced earlier this summer, but it has since been rescinded. Instead, Rhodes College will now mandate vaccination. The school’s public relations team did not respond to a request seeking comment.COVID testing fees are drawing opposition from students who are among the nearly 3 in 10 American adults who have so far resisted getting vaccinated. A similar number of millennials and younger Americans (31%) planned not to get vaccinated as of a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center from April 29 through May 5.Florida skeptics reconsider vaccines amid surgeIn Northeastern Florida, Nassau county had the highest rate of new coronavirus infections at the end of July. The surge of infections is making some vaccine skeptics reconsider getting the shots. (Aug. 17)APLogan Bailey, a junior at West Virginia Wesleyan, is upset about the approach universities are taking.“These schools are trying to force you to take a vaccine that’s not FDA approved fully,” he told Fox & Friends First.West Virginia Wesleyan spokesperson Amanda Hayes said Monday in an email that it’s “a fluid situation” and “we hope to have some more information for you in the next few days.”Some colleges in the South can’t impose vaccine mandates due to laws or executive orders in states like Alabama and Florida forbidding them from doing so.► Should colleges charge a fee to unvaccinated students? Why? Why not? Share your thoughts. This means they need to get more creative to persuade students to get vaccinated, said Kevin Volpp, director of the Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics at the Wharton School’s Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics.After a year in which many universities were offering mostly or exclusively  offering remote classes, administrators are eager to get back to some semblance of normal – and they see vaccines as their path for doing so.“The business model of many universities in the United States is to have a vibrant residential campus, and COVID has really threatened that,” Volpp said. “There are very strong incentives for universities to want to be able to resume regular operations.”Fauci: Get vaccinated, mask up to stop deadly COVID variantDr. Anthony Fauci encourages everyone to get vaccinated to stop the deadly COVID variant from spreading.Staff Video, USA TODAYUniversities are clearly hoping that students who have resisted vaccination so far will decide to get their shots instead of paying the fees, he said.“There’s probably two objectives. One is to simply cover those costs. The other is to further nudge or incent those students to think again about their decision and to ask themselves, ‘Do I really want to be paying for these tests all year?” Volpp said.Will it nudge more students to get their COVID shots?Being forced to pay money to remain unvaccinated might be more effective than providing incentives to take action, Volpp said.It’s stick over carrot.“That $20 that I’m now paying will affect me more than $20 coming in would affect me positively,” Volpp said.A similar dynamic is playing out with employers. Some are expected to begin applying a surcharge to the premiums of workers who refuse to get vaccinated, possibly totaling $20 to $50 per paycheck, USA TODAY reported.Is it ethical to impose testing fees?From an ethical perspective, it’s perfectly acceptable to force unvaccinated students to bear the costs of remaining unvaccinated, said Tae Wan Kim, a business ethics professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business.“Universities typically already had vaccine mandates before COVID-19,” he said. “Making students pay the fee is ethically justified. It’s similar to making dangerous car owners pay higher insurance rates.”That said, advocates for affordable college have criticized administrators for hiking non-COVID-related fees, making school less accessible.James Toscano, president of Partners for College Affordability and Public Trust, said colleges and universities too often impose fees to cover costs that they could otherwise absorb.“This is a particular concern when you’re talking about low-income students because they’re the most sensitive to price, they’re the most sensitive to fees,” he said. “With vaccination rates the lowest among low-income Americans, these fees are likely to hit people who can afford them the least. So that is a concern.”Bailey, the West Virginia Wesleyan student, said the school’s $750 fee would be a significant burden for him.“That makes it really hard for me,” he told Fox & Friends First. “A big reason I chose Wesleyan is because it’s the best financially for me. … This takes away three, maybe four weeks of work.”Toscano called on administrators to disclose all the details of their plans for using the income from testing fee income.“Anytime a college or university assesses a fee, they should be a hundred percent transparent about the fee that they’re charging and the actual cost of the service that is being provided by the institution,” Toscano said.Coleman, the Birmingham-Southern College president, said the $500 fee his college is imposing likely won’t cover the full cost of testing during the fall semester.Will any students drop out because of the fee? It hasn’t happened yet to Coleman’s knowledge.But he said the fee is necessary after federal COVID relief dollars used for testing during the last school year dried up.“I’m not looking to try to rile up people,” he said. “But the fact is my duty is to try to keep this campus as safe as possible.”You can follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey and subscribe to our free Daily Money newsletter here for personal finance tips and business news every Monday through Friday morning.Share your thoughts


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