Illinois higher education agencies advise all colleges to mandate coronavirus vaccine

by Joseph K. Clark

Dive Brief:

  • Two higher-education agencies in Illinois released guidance Monday suggesting all public and private colleges in the state mandate coronavirus vaccinations to slow or prevent transmission around their campuses.
  • The Illinois Board of Higher Education and the Illinois Community College Board also encouraged colleges to promote the shots on their campuses and address vaccine hesitancy.
  • Vaccines are the best way to prevent COVID-19, the boards said in their guidance. They said vaccination requirements should include “appropriate exemptions.”

Dive Insight:

The Illinois guidance comes as the struggle over coronavirus mitigation measures — especially vaccination requirements — plays out in state legislatures, courtrooms, and colleges nationwide. Lawmakers in several states have sought to ban campus vaccine requirements, even as many colleges have implemented them for the fall term.

Illinois, which has one of the highest college enrollment levels in the country, joins the ranks of other states that have greenlit coronavirus vaccine mandates on college campuses.

Virginia’s attorney general, for instance, issued an opinion in late April saying the state’s higher education institutions can require students to get vaccines to be on campus. Meanwhile, Indiana’s attorney general wrote an opinion in May contending colleges could mandate students to get the vaccines but was barred by a recently passed state law from asking for proof of vaccination as a condition of employment or enrollment.

So far, more than 580 campuses require the vaccines for at least some students or faculty members for the fall term, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. However, some of those mandates depend on one of the three available vaccines in the U.S. receiving full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration — which may not arrive before the fall term starts.


The Illinois guidance also follows a recent ruling from a federal judge who upheld Indiana University’s vaccine mandate, dealing a blow to a group of students who argued the requirement violated their constitutional rights.

On Sunday, a federal judge upheld Indiana University’s vaccine mandate in what appears to be the first ruling affirming such a requirement. Eight students had sued the university over its mandate, referencing that the vaccines do not yet have full FDA approval.

Several campuses in Illinois had already announced they would require students to get the shots to return to campus, including the entire University of Illinois system and Northwestern University.

According to The Wall Street Journal, at least eight other states have passed legislation banning colleges from requiring shots or proof of vaccination, creating a patchwork of vaccine policies in higher education.

Even different public college systems within the same states are split. The University of California system announced it would require the vaccines even though they’ve only been approved under Emergency Use Authorization, which allows them to be distributed quickly during a health crisis. Meanwhile, the California State University system will wait for full FDA approval to implement a mandate.

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