The University of New Mexico Thursday announced an incentive program to encourage students and staff to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as it prepares to open for more normal, in-person, instruction next month.
UNM will award $100 credits to registered students’ bursar accounts after they submit proof online of receiving a complete course of COVID-19 vaccine. That’s either a copy of a CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card or a department of health vaccination record uploaded to UNM's "Vax the Pack" website.
The incentives are available to people who are already vaccinated as well as those who still need a vaccine.
The money is from the third round of the federal Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF), part of the American Rescue Plan Act.
The program comes just weeks after the White House announced an effort to get more vaccines into people under age 30, a population with vaccination rates around 40%, compared to about 60% of all adults in the U.S.
UNM spokesperson Cinnamon Blair said the university decided this week to incentivize vaccination rather than require it. "With an announcement earlier this week that we wouldn’t mandate the vaccine, we still want to get our students in particular, but our whole campus, vaccinated," she said.
Blair pointed to studies showing small gifts and the promise of reduced restrictions are good motivators for younger people to get vaccinated. She stressed that COVID-19 vaccines are free and easy to get by registering online with the New Mexico Department of Health.
Faculty and staff are also being targeted with the incentives with drawings for fifty $1,000 prizes.
Enrollment at UNM has been in decline, down nearly 20% from 2017 to about 23,500 students last semester. The largest recent enrollment drop came in Spring 2020, at the same time New Mexico was hit hardest by COVID-19.