Will your college student need a COVID-19 vaccine to return to campus in Memphis?

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — FOX13 is pushing for answers from Memphis-area colleges and universities about potential requirements for COVID-19 vaccines for college students.

Legal experts say schools can legally deny students on campus if they haven’t received the shot.

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Rutgers University is one of the first to require a COVID-19 vaccine for students returning to campus this fall and setting a new standard for colleges and universities across the country.

“They have demonstrated a commitment too showing that their wellbeing is linked to the physical, psychological, economic, educational wellbeing of those in the community,” said Lynn Pasquerella, President of the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U).

She said the association supports Rutgers’ decision and she believes other schools will follow suit because the college experience by nature is full of in-person interactions.

“You shouldn’t have to worry if you’re in a classroom if the person next to you is COVID positive or a carrier,” said Pasquerella. “We want to be able to free students to be able to focus on their studies and not worry about their safety and wellbeing.”

Legal experts told FOX13 public and private institutions do in fact have that right to require students to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

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FOX13 Investigates reached out to these schools: The University of Memphis, Rhodes College, LeMoyne-Owen College, Southwest Tennessee Community College and Christian Brothers University for their stance on the COVID-19 vaccine.

At this point, none of the schools require the shot for students, but all of them encourage students to get it.

CBU and LeMoyne-Owen are both working with the city to vaccine those who want them and Southwest Tennessee Community College’s Whitehaven campus currently doubles as a vaccine site.

The University of Memphis could be next. The school recently applied the state for its student health center to administer the vaccine for faculty, staff and students.

Pasquerella said the association is offering guidance for universities about this decision which says doesn’t just affect college students

“I think this is taking a stance to not only protect their students but the community members who would be interacting with those students,” she said.

There are some exemptions for mandatory vaccines. Students may request an exemption for medical or religious reasons.