“I think for any prospective students who are looking at coming back to New York City and in-person activities in general, it’s definitely viewed as a path forward,” said Mira Silveira, 21, a rising senior at New York University.
More than 100 New York colleges have a mandate in place, according to a tracker from The Chronicle of Higher Education. Many of these universities said that more than 80 percent of their student body were partially or fully vaccinated as of mid-August. In many cases, the rate is higher than the general vaccination rate for college-age people in the state. In New York, about 64 percent of people between the ages of 16 to 25 have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to state statistics.
Colleges have also experienced significant spikes in enrollment compared to last year, officials said.
“Mostly, students just want to be back,” said Jim Malatras, chancellor for the State University of New York system. He added: “The enthusiasm and energy is actually palpable on campus. I sense it in a way I’ve never sensed it before.”
The vaccine mandate at the City University of New York and at SUNY was announced in May by former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo but did not become official until the Food and Drug Administration formally approved the Pfizer vaccine last week. All students must be fully vaccinated and submit proof of their status to attend in-person classes, unless they are granted medical or religious exemptions, with a grace period until late this month. The directive does not apply to faculty or staff, though unvaccinated employees may be subject to weekly testing.
But even before the vaccine mandate was formally put into place, SUNY students were getting the shot. According to a spokeswoman for SUNY Oneonta, which had one of the worst virus outbreaks of any college in New York State last fall, 88 percent of the campus’s residential and off campus students had received at least one dose of the vaccine as of late August (77 percent were fully vaccinated). Numbers for the entire system won’t be available until students have had time to catch up with the new mandate, said a spokeswoman for SUNY.
Ms. Lima Boudakian said she and her friends worried that there would be logistical challenges in vaccination, especially for international students. But her college, the New School, allowed international students an eight-day grace period after arriving in New York, to Ms. Lima Boudakian’s relief. The New School required all of its students, faculty and staff to be fully vaccinated or request an exemption in order to be on campus, with deadlines in August.