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Tennessee college to charge unvaccinated students a $1,500 'Health & Safety fee'

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Starting with the fall semester, a college in Memphis, Tennessee, plans to charge students who have not received the COVID-19 vaccine $1,500 per semester as part of a "Health & Safety Fee."

Rhodes College announced the policy in a Student Life letter issued last week, in which it explained that the charge is intended to "cover the costs of mandatory testing," Campus Reform reported.

Upon returning to campus, vaccinated students will not be subject to initial or regular asymptomatic testing, nor will they be required to wear masks or socially distance. However, unvaccinated students will be required to quarantine upon arrival, wear masks, practice social distancing, and complete weekly testing for the coronavirus.

Also, "depending on campus positivity rates," the letter stated, "non-vaccinated students may not be permitted to participate in certain campus events and activities including Athletics, clubs and intramurals, and student organizations."

Students are permitted to apply for medical or religious exemption requests so long as they are submitted by August for review. International students who do not have access to the vaccine will also be directed to a vaccine clinic once they arrive on campus.

The school's website states that Rhodes is planning to require all students, faculty, and staff to receive the COVID-19 vaccine once the U.S. Food and Drug Administration grants it official approval. As of now, the FDA has granted certain vaccines Emergency Use Authorization.

Until then, "Rhodes is strongly recommending faculty, staff, and students get the vaccine in anticipation of FDA approval," the website notes.

During an interview with WREG-TV, Rhodes College Vice President for Student Life Meghan Weyant said that while testing was free for students in the spring semester, the college expects students to get inoculated as more vaccines become available.

"As we prepare to welcome our returning students home and the largest incoming class in Rhodes history, we believe a campus-wide commitment to vaccination will really allow us to do our part in getting our students back on campus for the academic experience that we know they so much want," she explained.

Weyant added that the school has not received much pushback from students over its stance on campuswide vaccinations.

"The response has been positive," she said. "[Students] want to be back on campus doing the things that they are so excited to do as part of the college experience and so they very much recognize that this is the best and safest way to do that."

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