Colorado Will Give Out $50,000 College Scholarships To 25 Vaccinated Young People

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Francisco Reyes gets a COVID-19 vaccination from Denver firefighter Bryan Rhodes at a clinic organized by Black Lives Matter 5280 at Martin Luther King Jr. Early College in Green Valley Ranch on Tuesday, April 27, 2021. The vaccines came via Denver Health.

The state of Colorado is starting a campaign to incentivize COVID-19 vaccination in students age 12 through 17. 

The incentive is a $50,000 scholarship to help pay for college. Five eligible Coloradans will be randomly chosen to win each week for five weeks, totaling 25 scholarships. Gov. Jared Polis announced Wednesday the winners will be picked from those who have gotten at least a first dose of the vaccine by the date of the drawing.

“The money will simply be deposited in the CollegeInvest account, and it'll be there for them, whether they go to school in-state, out-of-state, all forms of eligible education expenditures,” Polis said.

He said about a quarter of those ages 12 to 17 in Colorado have gotten vaccinated since the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine became available to them a few weeks ago.

Technical education and credential programs, as well as traditional two- and four-year colleges and universities, are eligible uses of the money.

The scholarship giveaway also incentivizes going to college as enrollment numbers decline amid the pandemic.

Education leaders see multiple benefits to the scholarship program. Not only do they hope it will help get more young people vaccinated, but they also hope it will encourage more young people to go to college.

“We know that the pandemic had a very significant impact on students and on education,” said Angie Paccione, executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education. “We saw undergraduate enrollment decline over the last year and a half. Many first-year students decided to take a gap year. This scholarship sends a clear message to our state that we need you for our Colorado comeback.”

The first drawing for what is being called the Comeback Cash Scholarship will be held Monday, June 7. The drawings will continue every week through Friday, July 9. 

Polis said he thinks the program and a similar drawing for the state's adults will bolster Colorado's vaccination numbers.

“If you're a parent out there and you're planning to get your 12 to 17 year old protected from the deadly virus, as you should, as a good parent, this gives you a reason to do it now to make sure that they're fully eligible for the 25 drawings to win $50,000,” Polis said. “Don't put it off. You want them protected this summer.”

Vaccinations in Colorado have slowed in recent weeks, according to the state’s dashboard. Many who were enthusiastic about getting inoculated have already gotten their shots, and the state is now focusing on those who so far have waited, still have questions or have lacked access to vaccinations.

The issues with the state's vaccine database that left some ineligible for the $1 million drawings could affect the scholarship program too.

The state health department, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, will contact scholarship winners via email or phone.

In a release, the governor’s office said CDPHE will never ask for personal identifying information over the phone or via email or text. If you get such contact in relation to the drawing, “it may be a scam,” the release said, and should be reported to the state Attorney General’s office.

While the state says everyone ages 12-17 who has gotten a vaccine dose will be eligible, it has run into trouble with a similar promise when it came to the $1 million drawings for vaccinated adults.

Since the drawings were announced last week, some people have complained they haven’t been able to find their names in the state’s database, which will be used to pick the winners.

Among those not eligible at first were people who got vaccinated through the Veterans Administration, though a state health department spokesman said Friday night that they’d made a fix to get as many as 65,000 people who got their shots at VA facilities into the state's immunization database.

Polis has urged other people who are still encountering problems with finding their names in the state’s system to contact the provider who administered the vaccine. The entries for the first drawing have closed, the governor’s office said in a press release Wednesday. Assuming an eligible winner can be verified this week, the governor will announce the winner to the public Friday, June 4.

John Daley/CPR News
Cans of beer and stickers from Raíces Brewing Company in Denver. The brewery has hosted a community vaccine clinic and is taking other steps to communicate information about vaccines and COVID-19 safety.

Local businesses can now pledge to host vaccine clinics via a campaign called Power the Comeback.

Also on Wednesday, Polis announced a new element to the state’s local business campaign called Power the Comeback, where local businesses can help support employees who want to be vaccinated and promote policies for safe workplaces.

They can take a pledge to host a vaccine clinic onsite and provide incentives for employees to get vaccinated, among other things.

Raíces Brewing Company in Denver said they’d hosted a community vaccine clinic and were working to communicate information about metro area vaccine clinics as well as COVID-19 safety information.

“We are here to support not only our community, but other businesses in powering the comeback,” said Tamil Maldonado Vega, co-founder and vice president of Raíces.

She said Raíces has signed the pledge. At Wednesday’s press event, they showed off beer cans with a logo for its campaign: “Vaccinate to Victory Over COVID-19” or “Vacúnate Por La Victoria Sobre El COVID-19.”