COVID-19: Local college charging $1,500 fee for non-vaccinated students to return to campus

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Rhodes College announced it will charge a fee for non-vaccinated students returning to campus.

Upon returning to campus, students who have not received a COVID-19 vaccine will be charged a $1,500 per semester Health & Safety fee to cover the costs of mandatory testing, according to a release from the college.

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International students may not have access to vaccines before returning, and they can document their intent to be vaccinated upon arrival to campus through an email to the Director of International Programs, Dr. Erin Hillis, hillise@rhodes.edu.

This will waive the Health & Safety fee, according to the release.

Non-vaccinated students will need to be tested with negative results in the 14 days before returning to campus.

PCR tests are preferred and recommended, but antigen testing will be accepted as well, the release said.

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Test results can be uploaded through the Medicat Patient Portal.

Until FDA approval, Rhodes is recommending but not requiring full vaccinations for any person who comes to campus.

Flu vaccines will continue to be required this fall, the release said.

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All students must submit their vaccination cards by Aug. 1 through Medicat to prevent delays in returning to campus.

Medical or religious vaccine exemption requests can be submitted for review to Student Accessibility Services.

The recommended deadline for priority review is Aug. 2.

Students should contact Director of Student Accessibility Services Director, Melissa Butler, at butlerm@rhodes.edu regarding exemptions.

University of Memphis law professor Steve Mulroy said Rhodes College students don’t have many other options when it comes to the school’s non-vaccinated fee.

“Students coming in, take it or leave it,” Mulroy said. “They can either get vaccinated or they can go to another school.”

Mulroy said because Rhodes is a private institution, it can impose any mandate it wants.

Mulroy said there is one exception where a student could fight the fee mandate in court.

“If they truly have a disability, a medical disability that they can establish with competent medical evidence then under the Americans with Disabilities Act or the Rehabilitation Act then they might be able to require that the school waive the vaccination requirement.

Rhodes is recommending but still isn’t requiring full vaccinations for those who come back to campus. Which Mulroy said again, they have this right. He said outside of the health exception, any case against the fee or possible vaccination requirements won’t hold up in court.

“Rhodes College has the authority and the discretion to impose the kind of fee structure and vaccine requirement structure that it thinks and it’s considered judgment is in the best interest of the health and safety of all the other students,” he said.