AUSTIN, Texas — In lieu of a vaccine mandate, Texas public universities are offering prizes and financial incentives to encourage students and staff to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Certain universities cannot require vaccinations because of Gov. Greg Abbott's Executive Order GA-38 barring vaccine mandates within State agencies and local government entities.
On Thursday, the University of Texas at Austin announced potential prizes for vaccinated students, faculty and staff. In a press release, the university said all vaccinated members of the campus would be eligible to enter a vaccine incentive drawing.
The date of vaccination does not matter, as long as people just provide proof of vaccine.
UT Austin said details and entry rules on the incentive drawings will be announced on social media in the next few days.
"The Provost’s Office is also in the process of finalizing additional FAQs for faculty regarding how faculty should communicate with students about the importance of masking and the types of incentives that faculty, departments and schools/colleges can provide for masking in classes," Sharon Wood, the provost of UT Austin. "UT will also be creating incentives for students to get vaccinated."
UT Austin's FAQ says individual instructors, departments, colleges and schools may not offer vaccine incentives. The FAQ reads:
"Because of the privacy risk involved in an incentive related to someone’s protected health information, incentives to encourage vaccination will be implemented only at the university or college or school level. University leadership is working on various incentives to encourage vaccinations. The University does not expect schools and colleges to have their own incentives for vaccinations, but if one is contemplating such a program, the College/School must work with the Provost to gain approval."
UT Austin is not the only school enticing their campus to get the shot as the fall semester starts up. Texas A&M International University in Laredo and Texas A&M University in College Station announced that vaccinated students could win waived tuition and fees. Texas Tech University is offering a range of prizes from scholarships to free parking for students. Texas Tech is including faculty in the vaccine sweepstakes as well, offering football and concert tickets.
More than 740 universities across the country have issued vaccine mandates, as COVID-19 rate increase and vaccinations slow among young people 18 to 29, according to the Center for Disease Control. As the Delta variant spreads, CDC data shows hospitalizations are rising among young people.
There is no mask mandate this school year at UT Austin, and faculty are not allowed to require students to mask up in any class. They are also not allowed to offer significant "academic benefits," like extra credit or the promise of in-person classes, to encourage masks.
Click here for more information on UT's incentives program.
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