Many colleges were forced to cancel in-person learning early on in the pandemic, and over the past year, a number of universities have struggled to safely bring students back to campus. One solution, of course, is to make sure that all students who attend in-person classes and live in student housing are vaccinated against COVID-19. And now, one New Jersey college is taking a bold step -- mandating vaccination for the upcoming fall semester.
Rutgers to enforce vaccination rules
Located in central New Jersey, Rutgers University will require students returning to its campus this fall to provide proof that they've been vaccinated against COVID-19. Students can opt out of vaccination and enroll fully in online classes, but those wanting to set foot on the school's campus will need to get vaccinated first. That said, the college will be making exceptions for students who have medical or religious reasons for not getting a vaccine.
So far, Rutgers is one of the first U.S. colleges that will be mandating vaccines. And while its announcement may be regarded as controversial, it actually makes a lot of sense. Colleges routinely require other vaccines for students who want to live on campus, like hepatitis, measles, and meningitis, so requiring a coronavirus vaccine falls in line with this practice.
The problem, however, is that while there's an ample supply of those vaccines that have been around for years, right now, the demand for coronavirus vaccines well exceeds the number of doses available to the public. Still, since the Rutgers requirement doesn't apply until the fall semester, it does give students a decent amount of time to get vaccinated, especially in light of President Biden's recent announcement that all states should make vaccines available to all recipients by the beginning of May.
Of course, vaccine eligibility only works so well when there's a limited supply of doses, but the hope is that production will increase over the next few months so that inoculation by September is a reasonable goal.
Another challenge, of course, is that only one vaccine candidate -- Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) -- has been approved for recipients age 16 and over. The other two vaccines on the market are only authorized for those 18 and over, and not every student starts college having already turned 18.
Will more colleges follow suit?
Given that it's common practice for universities to require proof of other vaccines, it stands to reason that many will seek to follow in Rutgers' footsteps and mandate proof of a coronavirus vaccine for the upcoming semester. And that would, in turn, be good news for real estate investors.
While some students may seek to opt out of vaccination and limit themselves to online coursework and off-campus activities, many students will no doubt be eager to return to a campus environment that's safer than it was before. And if universities are able to enforce vaccination rules, colleges may be able to welcome more students back, thereby increasing the need for nearby housing. That could, in turn, make for a profitable situation for investors with income properties in college towns.
Over the past couple of semesters, many students haven't needed housing because they've simply moved back in with their parents to take classes online. But if in-person learning starts booming again, income property owners could see leases for college-adjacent housing start to pick up. Similarly, if more colleges require vaccinations, that could work wonders for student housing REITs (real estate investment trusts).
Most colleges haven't yet taken a stance on coronavirus vaccine requirements. But as supply and eligibility increase, we could see that change over the coming weeks.