If You're Unvaccinated, You May Have to Pay More to Do This

This extra fee could cost you hundreds to thousands more than usual.

As the Delta variant wreaks havoc across the U.S., health officials are doubling down on their main message: Get vaccinated. But those who still refuse to do so face more than just a heightened risk of severe infection. Unvaccinated people are getting banned from many popular tourist destinations, restaurants, theaters, and venues, with major cities implementing new proof of vaccination mandates for indoor spaces. That's not all being unvaccinated could cost you, however.

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Pursuing higher education has been a serious challenge during the COVID pandemic. Colleges and universities have had to make a lot of new policies to help mitigate the spread of the virus among thousands of students. As people across the country get ready to return for the fall semester, some of these schools are now requiring masks again, mandating vaccinations, and implementing regular COVID testing.

And some schools are taking it a step further, adding an extra fee for unvaccinated students. West Virginia Wesleyan College (WWWC) is the most recent college to do this, posting an announcement about the extra fee on Aug. 12.

"Students who do not submit a proof of vaccination or who are not vaccinated will be charged a non-refundable $750 COVID fee for the Fall 2021 semester," the announcement reads. WWWC students have until Sept. 7 to submit proof that they've had at least one dose of a vaccine. If not, they'll be subject to weekly surveillance testing—which is what the unvaccinated fee will go toward.

But WWWC is not the first higher education institute to announce this kind of charge. In June, Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, said that students will be required to be vaccinated once the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officially approves the vaccine. Until then, vaccinations are strongly recommended—so much so that unvaccinated individuals will have to pay a $1,500 Health and Safety fee every semester to be on campus.

This fee will "cover the costs of mandatory testing," including an initial asymptomatic test unvaccinated students will have to complete upon move-in day, as well as weekly testing.

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Other colleges are taking more incentive-based paths to encourage their students to get vaccinated. Schools such as Purdue University and West Virginia University have allowed vaccinated individuals to enter raffles, where they can win anything from laptops and gift certificates to one year's worth of in-state tuition. Some experts argue that these reward methods might work better.

"Incentives really work best when they're aimed at people who are not against being vaccinated, but they have for whatever reason not prioritized vaccination up until now," Emily Largent, PhD, a professor of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania, told NPR. After all, college students are in an age group that has likely not felt much pressure to get vaccinated because they are not typically at high risk of severe COVID, Largent said.

But others say incentives only go so far. Eric Kaler, president of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, said despite his school offering vaccinated students many free perks, only 73 percent of students on campus were fully vaccinated or on their way to becoming so by mid-July.

"We got stuck. It was clear that additional incentives were probably not going to be effective in moving us to the 95-plus percent level that we think is necessary," Kaler told NPR. The college then decided to require vaccination, which helped increase the vaccinated rate to 98 percent of students on campus. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, more than 680 higher education institutions are also now requiring COVID vaccinations, including major schools such as Stanford University, Virginia Tech, Michigan State University, and Harvard University.

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