Oregon colleges and universities offer COVID-19 vaccine incentives

By Meerah Powell (OPB)
Sept. 6, 2021 1 p.m. Updated: Sept. 8, 2021 12:11 a.m.

Some schools are shelling out big bucks to encourage COVID-19 vaccination

As the fall term approaches for Oregon’s public universities and colleges, schools are pulling out all the stops to encourage students, employees and community members to get vaccinated.

Although all of Oregon’s public universities are requiring COVID-19 vaccination for the fall, people are still legally allowed to request exemptions. Of the community colleges, only two have enacted any sort of COVID-19 vaccination mandate: Lane Community College and Central Oregon Community College, though the COCC requirement applies only to some students and faculty.


To entice the campus community to get their shots, some institutions are offering gift cards, tuition waivers and cash rewards in exchange for proof of COVID-19 vaccination.

The University of Oregon last week announced it would be offering a total of $50,000 in cash awards to students who comply with the university’s vaccination requirements by submitting their proof of vaccination or exemption by this Friday, with lucky students getting up to $5,000.

UO already has vaccination rates of more than 95% for both students and employees who have submitted either vaccination status or requested an exemption, according to the university’s vaccination dashboard. Though that number could change as only 60% of all students and 80% of employees have reported as of late last week.

These types of vaccine incentive programs aren’t new to Oregon higher education at this point in the pandemic.

Western Oregon University back in May, when it initially announced its fall vaccine mandate, said all vaccinated students would be able to get $25 to use at the university bookstore in order to encourage vaccination before the end of this past school year.

“My hope is that this incentive program encourages WOU students to get their vaccination and rewards those who already have. It’s important we do our part to support pack immunity in our Wolf community,” said Associated Students of Western Oregon University President N.J. Johnson said at the time. “We encourage students to get their first vaccination as soon as possible so they will have their second dose completed before the conclusion of spring term.”


Other schools have extended their incentives beyond just students.

Community colleges offer vaccine incentives, even without broad mandates

Central Oregon Community College announced early last month that it would give vaccinated students and employees a chance to win one of more than 100 Visa gift cards, valued at $500, $250 and $100.

COCC is requiring some students and employees to be vaccinated, or request an exemption — particularly those who live in on-campus housing and those who learn or work in clinical settings.

The money for COCC’s incentive program came from federal coronavirus aid.

“We know the COVID-19 vaccines are our most effective tool in the fight against the coronavirus, its deadly variants and the pandemic’s impact on our personal freedoms and public health,” Dr. Alicia Moore, COCC’s vice president of student affairs, said in a statement. “Thanks to federal funding, COCC is able to offer financial incentives as a way to say ‘thanks’ to students and employees for getting vaccinated.”

Clackamas Community College announced last week that it would be partnering with Clackamas County Public Health to offer vaccination clinics this Tuesday and on Sept. 28, at its Oregon City campus.

At those clinics, CCC is offering $50 gift cards to the college bookstore or tuition waivers for one free class at the college. Clackamas County Public Health is giving $50 Fred Meyer gift cards to everyone who gets vaccinated.

“As we start to open our doors for more in-person classes this fall and winter, we want to ensure the safest environment possible for our students,” CCC President Tim Cook said in a statement. “By offering COVID-19 vaccines, we can help protect our students, our employees, and members of the community.”

Lane Community College, the only community college in the state mandating the COVID-19 vaccine for the fall term, is holding a vaccination lottery where 300 fully-vaccinated students will win $500.