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Research Shows College Vaccine Mandates Reduced Deaths by 5% | This Week in Admissions News

05 AUG 2022

The world of college admissions is ever-changing and for students with top university ambitions, it’s important to stay up-to-date on the latest developments. This week, a new working study shows that vaccination policies implemented at universities and colleges reduced the US COVID-19 death rate by 5% in fall 2021. Check back next week to see what’s new and noteworthy in university admissions!


Research Shows College Vaccine Mandates Reduced Deaths by 5%

University and college vaccination policies implemented in fall 2021 significantly reduced US COVID-19-related death rates by approximately 5%, according to a new study.

Nearly 700 colleges and universities in the US  mandated the COVID-19 vaccine for their students and faculty in spring of 2021, according to the study by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER).

In the fall of 2021, the four-year college vaccine mandate reduced COVID-19 deaths by approximately 5%, saving an estimated 7,300 lives. 

Rather than focusing solely on how a college's vaccine mandate affected its students, the study examined how it could affect the surrounding community as a "spillover.” The study states: “99.5% of COVID deaths are among those over the age of 24. The reductions in deaths we document hence come almost entirely from the non-college population.” 

They found that in communities around residential colleges with vaccination mandates, new COVID-19 cases decreased by 339 per 100,000 residents, and new deaths decreased by 5.4 per 100,000 residents. 

Professor Riley Acton, co-author of the paper, believes vaccinations can bring important benefits to the surrounding community. “One of the arguments for vaccinating a younger, generally healthier population would be this idea of protecting the rest of the community by limiting transmission from the college students to other members of the community,” Acton said.

Healthy college students were at low risk of hospitalization or death from COVID-19, so "the reduction in deaths almost all comes from the surrounding community," paper co-author Scott Imberman of Michigan State explained. Imberman says these numbers are particularly noteworthy since many college vaccination mandates were put in place mainly to manage outbreaks among students. “We hope that our work,” Imberman said, “shows the universities their responsibilities to the communities that they live in — to help protect the health and well-being of people outside of the colleges as well.”

Impact on lower-income communities: Among the two groups that saw the greatest impact were college towns and universities that serve a large population who would not be vaccinated without the college mandates, according to Mike Lovenheim, one of the authors of the paper. Lower-income students have less access to vaccinations because of work schedules and family obligations.

“When you look at the data, it’s really overwhelming that the mortality rates, fortunately, have declined,” Lovenheim said. “A lot of that’s due to the vaccines, but a lot of it was due to these other treatments like Paxlovid that we have that weren’t widely available in the period we studied.

With new potential variants emerging, it is not clear how the COVID-19 pandemic will continue. The study emphasizes the need for officials and governments to remain proactive in reducing disease burdens. While the paper does not weigh in on whether colleges should mandate vaccines, Acton noted, “the cost would have to be even larger to justify not having this as a policy,”  indicating that the vaccine mandate can be an effective tool towards achieving that goal.

Other top stories in admissions news this week:

  • ​​The Boston Herald reports that Google and Apple are "among nearly 70 companies filing a brief with the US Supreme Court in support of affirmative action programs", with the brief arguing that corporate diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts “depend on university admissions programs that lead to graduates educated in racially and ethnically diverse environments.”
  • The PIE News writes according to a new report on immigrant entrepreneurs, 143 of the 582 billion-dollar US companies were founded by former international students. In total, 174 international students became founders or co-founders of billion-dollar US companies such as Grammarly, Calendly, Gympass and SpaceX. The report brief, written by Indian born Berkeley grad and current MIT professor Hari Balakrishnan, calls the US "the best higher education and research ecosystem with the best opportunities in the world," adding "If you want to be the best you can be, you have to go to the place where the opportunities are at."
  • According to The Washington Post, Dartmouth has appointed its first-ever female president, an announcement that comes as the uni celebrates its 50th anniversary of coeducation. Sian Beilock, who will assume the role in July 2023, said her multiple identities as a woman — "president, mother, researcher" — are all "front and center" in her career and "all contribute to one's ability to lead."
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