Coronavirus

What State Universities, Colleges Say About Requiring Vaccinations

A bird's-eye view of the Colorado State University campus.
A bird's-eye view of the Colorado State University campus. Colorado State University via YouTube
Colorado colleges and universities have been among the state's superspreaders of COVID-19. The most recent outbreaks report from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment documents disease surges at dozens of institutions and entities affiliated with them, ranging from sports teams to fraternities and sororities — and several of the flare-ups have been big. For example, the April 14 report counts 2,854 student infections at Colorado State University and 3,218 student cases along with another 238 involving staffers at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Yet when we contacted fifteen major colleges and universities across the state to find out if vaccinations will be required for students signed up for the fall 2021 term, we discovered that only two have issued a mandate so far: Fort Lewis College in Durango and the University of Denver, which made its announcement on April 20. The rest encourage vaccinations but stop short of making them a requirement — though a handful note exceptions, hint that their policies aren't set in stone or acknowledge that they simply haven't settled on a final decision.

Here's a roundup of the current policies, as reported by the schools:

University of Colorado Boulder


"At this time, all of the vaccines are under emergency use authorization and there are no requirements to get the vaccine. We’ll continue to monitor guidelines on the COVID-19 vaccine and evaluate the legal implications of a requirement. Currently, we are encouraging our campus community to get the COVID-19 vaccine and will continue to offer it on campus through Medical Services."

Colorado State University

"COVID-19 vaccines are not mandated for employees or students. CSU is strongly urging all students, faculty and staff to get vaccinated. Vaccines may be required for employees working in certain environments including our Health Network, and COVID testing and screening staff. Because COVID vaccines have received an emergency use authorization from the federal government, and due to Colorado law stipulations, some options exist for opting out of the vaccine within the confines of the law. Any student, faculty or staff member who is not vaccinated may be required to take extra precautions when and if public health guidance changes, such as being required to continue to wear a mask and maintain physical distancing."

Metro State University of Denver


"MSU Denver hasn’t yet determined whether a COVID-19 vaccination will be required to attend classes in-person for fall 2021. We are strongly encouraging students to take advantage of the numerous vaccine clinic opportunities offered on campus weekly. Having a vaccinated Auraria community will directly improve campus safety, enabling a robust in-person fall semester."

University of Colorado Denver

"The University of Colorado Denver is not requiring fall students to get the vaccine at this time. However, our top priority is keeping our campus community safe, and we highly recommend students receive the vaccine prior to returning to campus. The Auraria Campus, where CU Denver resides, currently has a vaccine clinic for those eligible."

Colorado School of Mines

"At this time, Colorado School of Mines is not requiring students or employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine. That said, as we have learned throughout the pandemic, the landscape can change quickly, and we will continue to evaluate this situation and all relevant information. Mines strongly encourages all members of the Mines community to get vaccinated as soon as they are eligible.... We hope to provide vaccination opportunities to students in the future."

Regis University

"This decision is pending."

University of Northern Colorado

"At this time, UNC doesn’t require/has no plans to require any of its campus community members, including students, to get a COVID-19 vaccine. However, we do encourage everyone in our campus community to get vaccinated as soon as they are able to do so."

Colorado Mountain College

"CMC will return to traditional face-to-face instruction at all of its campuses in fall 2021. To accomplish this, we will monitor the public health guidelines at each of our campus locations to ensure successful compliance. While we strongly recommend that all CMC students and staff receive a vaccination when they are eligible to do so, we do not intend to impose a vaccine requirement at this time. We may, however, introduce supplementary requirements, as appropriate, for those unable to provide proof of a COVID vaccination."

Colorado State University Pueblo

"As a public institution, CSU Pueblo will follow state guidelines and the Board of Health rule for vaccinations. ... If the COVID vaccine is required by CDPHE for higher education at a later date, CSU Pueblo would require it (just as we do Measles, Mumps and Rubella [MMR], etc.), though — per state law — anyone may file an exemption."

Colorado Mesa University

"CMU will not be requiring vaccination as a pre-requisite for attending in-person learning this fall. CMU remained open during the pandemic with our Safe Together, Strong Together pandemic response plan and will remain open moving forward as we layer into our existing plan wide-spread availability of vaccines for our students, faculty and staff."

Adams State University

"At this time Adams State is not requiring a COVID19 vaccination to return or enroll for the fall semester. Adams State is talking to students and recommending and encouraging the vaccination. Adams State is also currently working on a student vaccination clinic to occur prior to the end of the spring semester so that students can receive a vaccine prior to heading home for the summer. Adams State will also review any guidance that comes from the state AG as it pertains to vaccinations. Adams State has largely kept students on campus and attending in-person classes throughout the pandemic through its mask mandate, social distancing standards, COVID symptom monitoring and hosting COVID testing on campus for students, staff, faculty and the community at-large. Adams State will continue to require masks during its summer sessions and is planning on three-foot distancing measures for in-person classes. As fall approaches Adams State will continue to rely on guidance from the state and Alamosa County health officials."

Colorado College

"Colorado College is encouraging all students, faculty, and staff to receive the vaccination as soon as they are eligible. If the state requires vaccination, we will of course require it."

Western Colorado University

"Western Colorado University is giving careful deliberation to this matter. We do not have a decision yet."

Fort Lewis College

"A COVID-19 vaccine will be required for all FLC students enrolled for the Fall 2021 semester. Our campus policy, which is being finalized, will follow CO law and is adding an FDA approved COVID vaccine to the existing MMR policy. So, students with valid exemptions under CO law, would be allowed to register at FLC. We will also offer some online courses (though likely only about 10 percent of our course total) for students who elect that option."

Statement from Fort Lewis College President Tom Stritikus: "We are an institution with a large population of Native students and other students of color, and we know COVID had a disproportionate impact on those communities — requiring the vaccine protects not only our campus, but the communities our students come from.... Requiring vaccinations for students is our next step in protecting the campus, increasing in-person engagement, and improving mental health. It’s time to reengage our students, faculty, and staff in all that we enjoy and expect in our campus experience. And while COVID has taught us that there are no guarantees, we believe this is our best path for a return to normalcy."

University of Denver

"We have made vaccination an urgent priority because we believe a fully vaccinated community is the best way to protect ourselves and each other. In addition, through widespread vaccination, DU can confidently loosen or remove restrictions that have impacted social and mental well-being. Community members can feel safer and more comfortable as we make an on-campus, vibrant return to 'normal' in the fall term. To realize this goal — and in accordance with the guidance of health care experts — the University of Denver will require all undergraduate and graduate students living, learning or working on campus to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 before returning to campus for the fall 2021 term. Proof of vaccination or exemption will be required before the start of fall term; we will provide more details on this process soon. We are also considering whether to require the vaccine for all faculty and staff and that decision will be shared as soon as possible."
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts