WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Colleges and universities across the state are welcoming students back to class this week, many with mask and vaccine mandates.
Indiana University and Butler University required their students to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before returning to campus in the fall. This method received some pushback, especially for IU which faced a legal battle and eventually got the go-ahead for a vaccine mandate.
In West Lafayette, Purdue University left coronavirus vaccinations up to its students, staff and faculty.
"I will say, here at Purdue, we have offered a choice model and people can either chose to stay with the system we used all last year – all of us were subject to surveillance testing on a regular basis – or they can exempt themselves by getting vaccinated. We've done everything we know how to encourage that, enable that," Purdue University President Mitch Daniels said in an interview in late July.
And, upon everyone's return to campus, the university is reporting overwhelming success with 79% of its campus having submitted proof of vaccination by the first day of classes on Monday, Aug. 23. That's the equivalent of 43,130 students, faculty and staff being fully vaccinated.
The vaccination rate at the university is so high that Purdue said if it were its own ZIP code for public health reporting data, the campus' fully vaccinated rate would rank among the top 3% of the state's 740 ZIP codes, based on figures from the Indiana Department of Health.
For students living in university housing, the vaccination rate is at 87%.
Purdue welcomed its largest freshman class ever on Monday.
More than 10,000 freshmen came to Purdue this year, which caused the university to be tight on on-campus housing. The university turned two-person dorms into three-person dorms, added a fourth bed to triple occupancy rooms, and even used off-campus apartments.
Additionally, nearly all of Purdue's faculty are fully vaccinated. The university reported 90% of faculty and 75% of staff are fully vaccinated.
The university's success could be attributed to benefits for students and staff who got fully vaccinated. For one, those who submitted and had their COVID-19 vaccine documentation verified by Aug. 13 are excused from routine surveillance testing and won’t have to quarantine after high-risk exposure to the virus as long as they remain symptom-free.
On top of this, Purdue gave students who got vaccinated a chance to win big.
Students who registered their proof of vaccination by July 15 were entered in an "Old Golden Ticket" drawing for $9,992, which the university said covers the cost of a year of undergraduate tuition for an in-state student.