Central Connecticut State University (Kristina Vakham for CTNewsJunkie)

Students at Connecticut State Colleges and Universities will need to take a COVID-19 vaccine before returning to campuses for the fall semester, the public higher education system announced Thursday. 

In a press release, CSCU’s interim president, Dr. Jane Gates, said the vaccines were essential to resuming normal operations at the system’s 17 campuses which include Central, Eastern, Southern, and Western Connecticut State Universities.

“Now is the time for students planning on attending college this fall to get vaccinated. With more infectious, more severe variants becoming more and more prevalent, getting your shot is the best way to protect yourself, your family, and our communities,” Gates said.

The decision by the state Board of Regents for Higher Education puts the CSCU schools in line with several private universities in Connecticut as well as the University of Connecticut, where officials voted to adopt the same policy earlier this month

The requirement does not apply to students who are learning exclusively through online courses. The policy also allows students to request both medical and nonmedical exemptions, but in general students will need to be fully-vaccinated before returning to campuses. 

Students who are granted exemptions may be barred from attending some in-person events and will be required to observe masking and social distancing requirements while on campus, according to the CSCU’s website. For students who are vaccinated, administrators hope to “significantly relax” those requirements.

The board did not adopt the same policy for institution staff members, who in some cases have union representation, but reserved the authority to impose the requirement later on.  

“For represented employees the BOR does acknowledge that there will be required discussion with the unions on this issue. Evaluations are ongoing to determine whether this course of action will be necessary,” the press release said. 

In addition to the four state universities, the CSCU system also includes Charter Oak State College as well as Asnuntuck Community College, Capital Community College, Gateway Community College, Housatonic Community College, Manchester Community College, Middlesex Community College, Naugatuck Valley Community College, Northwestern CT Community College, Norwalk Community College, Quinebaug Valley Community College, Three Rivers Community College, and Tunxis Community College.