MSU Denver Is Offering Vaccinated Students The Chance To Win Tuition Money

Denver’s Auraria Campus Closed and Empty
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
With buildings closed and classes moving online during the coronavirus outbreak, Denver’s Auraria Campus — comprising CU Denver, Metropolitan State, and Community College of Denver — is almost empty. May 20, 2020.

As Colorado attempts to raise vaccination rates among young people, Metropolitan State University of Denver is the state’s first higher education institution to offer its own COVID-19 vaccine incentive program. 

The university will award scholarships to five students, each able to cover up to $8,164 of the student’s remaining tuition after other financial aid. If an in-state student receives the whole amount, it would be enough to cover an entire year of school. 

“We just want to make sure that our students or faculty and staff have the best experience, and the best way to do that is to get the vaccine,” MSU’s associate vice president of enrollment Mary Sauceda said. “So we really wanted to motivate students, especially those students who are planning on getting the vaccine, but haven't gotten the chance to do it.”

Sauceda said the scholarship will hopefully motivate students still on the fence about getting vaccinated. The Auraria campus, which houses three universities including MSU, is asking all students to receive a COVID-19 vaccine before returning to classes in the fall. As is the case for other vaccines colleges require, students may opt out for personal, medical or religious reasons. 

In a press release, Sauceda said this is a good opportunity for students who don’t qualify for programs like Pell grants to get a chance at extra aid. MSU has a student population of around 19,000. If all students get vaccinated and enter the giveaway, each one would have about a 0.03% chance of winning. 

“Unfortunately money is finite,” she said. “We're not able to give 100 scholarships out or 200 scholarships out or even more than that. So we were only able to manage giving five scholarships out. I think giving five scholarships out to students is better than zero, right?” 

Savannah Martel, MSU’s student trustee, largely approved of the giveaway, saying it will lead to campus returning to normal faster. 

“That may cause a little bit of rift between people who are super passionate about not getting the vaccine, but still needing the financial aid help,” she said. “But overall I'm pretty sure the majority of our students are vaccinated or willing to get vaccinated or will be vaccinated by the fall, and it's a positive thing for our university.” 

Students who want to be entered into the scholarship giveaway will have to fill out a form that asks whether they’ve gotten a COVID-19 shot. Although uploading proof of vaccination is not required for that survey, MSU will verify the winning students’ immunization records through the state’s database. According to Sauceda, 82% of students that responded to the survey said they’re vaccinated. 

MSU may be the first university to start their own vaccination incentive program, but several out-of-state universities are considering similar strategies. 

The first winners of Colorado's $50,000 scholarship for vaccinated 12 to 17-year-olds have been announced

The state government is also using its own scholarships as a draw. Earlier this month, Governor Jared Polis announced 25 vaccinated young people would each receive $50,000 college scholarships. All 12 to 17-year-olds in Colorado will be automatically entered into the giveaway, once their vaccine provider adds them to the state database. 

The first five winners were announced Thursday at a press conference. Natalie M. of Centennial, Arianna Garcia, 14, of Longmont, Liam Atkins, 15, of Boulder, Brett Cheney, 16, of Mesa County, and Gabriella Sleight, 14, of Littleton will have their prizes deposited into a 529 account

“It's $50,000 now, but it grows over time,” Polis said. “So if you're a freshman or sophomore, hopefully it will be $55 or $60,000.” 

Depending on the specific plan, 529 funds may be used for expenses like tuition, loan repayments, or rent. 

Polis said one student, who lives in Steamboat Springs, was initially selected as one of the scholarship winners, but he declined because he received a full scholarship to attend Clarkson University in New York.