Biden Administration Launches COVID-19 College Challenge

VaccinatedImage by Gerd Altmann

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Department of Education announced more details on the COVID-19 College Challenge, where colleges and universities take a pledge and commit to taking action to get their college communities vaccinated.

The COVID-19 College Challenge is part of the Biden Administration’s month of action in June encouraging Americans to get vaccinated and aims to accelerate our national progress toward President Biden’s goal of 70% of the U.S. adult population receiving at least one vaccine shot by July 4th. First Lady Jill Biden and Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona kicked off the challenge on their social media platforms, encouraging institutions of higher education to join the challenge.

The Challenge will galvanize colleges to reach young people where they are, with information they can use, through trusted messengers they rely on, and provide them opportunities and access to vaccination. Especially over the summer when many students are away from campus, it is important that college leaders and student leaders make a plan to reach every member of their campus community—student, faculty, and staff – to encourage them to get vaccinated now.

“The College Vaccine Challenge is a terrific way for all postsecondary institutions to engage students, faculty, and staff in an effort to keep their communities safe,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “I encourage every college and university to take this pledge and get creative in becoming Vaccine Champion Colleges. We must all work together to beat this pandemic and put the focus back on students’ educational careers that will put them on the path to success.”

Colleges around the country have been leading the way throughout the pandemic to keep their communities safe and healthy—including efforts to get students vaccinated this past spring. College presidents can now take the pledge to become a Vaccine Champion College, committing to taking the following actions:

  1. Engage every student, faculty, and staff member: Make sure every member of your campus community knows they are eligible for vaccine and has resources to find one. For example, colleges can:
    • Make an Ask: Encourage every student, staff, faculty, and member of your college community to make a plan and get vaccinated now.
    • Educate: Provide information and resources to all students and staff/faculty (virtually and in-person) on safety and availability of the vaccine—in language that young people understand.
  1. Organize your college community: Lead the way by identifying champions for vaccine efforts across campus and implementing a plan to get as many members of your college community vaccinated as possible. For example, colleges can:
    • Host A Meeting: Convene a meeting of student, faculty, and staff leaders from across the college community to build a college-wide plan to get as many people vaccinated as possible this summer.
    • Enlist student and staff/faculty leaders: Designate key leaders among students and staff/faculty to drive peer-to-peer engagement and education efforts and to serve as resources for the community.
    • Speak Up: College administrators and student leaders can use their voices on social media, in school and community newspapers, and anywhere they can about how vaccination brings us back to the campus life we know and love.
  1. Deliver vaccine access for all: Meet your community where it is; bring vaccines on-site, and make it easier for students, staff, and faculty to get vaccinated sites nearby them this summer. For example, colleges can:
    • Make it easier for everyone to get vaccinated: Offer vaccine clinics on campus, or partner with nearby providers. For students and staff not on campus, walk them through process to schedule a vaccine appointment nearby them and make a plan to complete it. Offer paid time off for employees to get vaccinated.
    • Set goals and track success: Hold yourself accountable by setting goals, tracking success, and using data to know and understand your reach.
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Any college or university can commit to the Challenge by going to whitehouse.gov/COVIDCollegeChallenge and signing up. Signing up means that a college has committed to taking action, and their institution will be listed on the White House website as taking the pledge and committing to action.

The Administration will provide resources to assist colleges and universities in their vaccination efforts, including toolkits and materials for communicating with staff and students about the vaccine and tips for how to drive success. We will encourage all Vaccine Champion Colleges to voluntarily share out their progress via social media with #COVIDCollegeChallenge and #WeCanDoThis.

As part of the College Vaccine Challenge, the Administration will also be taking a series of actions to support institutions of higher education as they work to get their students, educators, and communities vaccinated, including:

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Launching new student focus within the COVID-19 Community Corps: The Administration will work with stakeholders to generate educational materials on the vaccine that can best reach young people. As part of this effort, the Administration will host regular training sessions for college and student leaders to organize their colleges, peers, and communities, under the umbrella of the COVID Community Corps. This new strand of the Community Corps work will focus on training up young people and youth/student organizations to become vaccine champions in their communities. Training will focus on getting friends and family vaccinated; working with civic, campus, and community leaders on drawing young people out to get vaccinated; designing and creating engaging content for young people to learn about the vaccine; and hosting community education events to build confidence in the vaccine. As part of the effort, the Administration will also be engaging educators to encourage their students and peers to get vaccinated and spread the word about the challenge.

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Building on efforts to provide vaccine access at community colleges: Earlier this month, President Biden announced that as part of ongoing efforts to reach students to get vaccinated, the Administration will launch partnerships between federal retail pharmacy partners and high-enrollment community colleges to provide on-site clinics for students, staff, and local communities. These community colleges will work to get word out to students, staff, and local communities to make use of these clinics, especially for students who are on or nearby campus this summer. The program builds on the strong success of the federal pharmacy program in reaching local communities, including through over 6,000 mobile vaccination clinics across the program to date. Community colleges are key anchors in our communities, with significant reach into the geographies they serve, and a great diversity of students enrolled. To date, 60 community colleges from 20 states have signed up for this initiative. The full list of colleges that have signed up can be found here.

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