As school season rolls around, here are the vaccine policies at California's public colleges and universities

Angela Yang

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As the fall term kicks off at colleges and universities across California, most of the state’s public schools have a plan to ensure a vaccinated campus population. Here’s a rundown of their policies:

The UC system

After more than a year of virtual instruction, all University of California campuses will return to mostly in-person learning starting this upcoming term. Most of the nine UC schools start their fall quarter at the end of September, with the exception of semester-based UC Berkeley and Merced, which begin in late August.

All students, faculty and staff planning to set foot on campus must show proof of full vaccination unless they successfully request an exception or deferral. Accepted grounds for an exception include medical, disability and religious reasons, while a deferral could be offered in cases of pregnancy, recent contraction of COVID-19 or having participated in a clinical vaccine trial.

To promote access to vaccination, all UC campuses and medical centers must either offer on-site vaccination opportunities or maintain a list of nearby off-campus locations that provide them.

Students who fail to follow the vaccination policy may face a registration hold, which prevents them from signing up for classes, and will be barred from entering campus facilities. Consequences could ultimately include dismissal from UC educational programs or employment.

Depending on future public health guidelines and vaccine developments, proof of annual — or more frequent — booster shots may also become necessary.

Those who remain unvaccinated may be required to wear masks indoors. Students or employees who test positive for COVID-19 will undergo contact tracing, and individuals who are not vaccinated or who are showing symptoms must quarantine for 10 days.

The CSU system

While the California State University is returning to mostly in-person operations for the fall, it will still offer a selection of virtual courses for those who do not wish to be on campus.

All of the 23 Cal States are requiring proof of vaccination from anyone planning to return to campus for the fall semester, with room for medical and religious exemptions. Some Cal State campuses will offer vaccines on-site.

Those who receive an exemption or are still waiting to get their vaccination by the time school starts must test weekly for COVID-19, and students who refuse to comply could face removal from in-person classes or on-campus residences.

Many campuses will also continue to require unvaccinated individuals to wear masks indoors in accordance with local public health policies.

California Community Colleges

Unlike the UC and Cal State systems, California’s 116 public community colleges do not have one overarching policy on whether to institute vaccine mandates.

Such mandates are up to individual community college districts, several of which have announced they will require vaccinations for the fall.

But for the most part, these districts are choosing to encourage vaccinations rather than outright require them. Some districts have offered incentives like cash or free textbooks to those who agree to receive their shots.

While students will likely have more in-person opportunities than last year, the state’s community colleges will continue to offer a wide array of fully remote courses.

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Angela Yang is a business correspondent at The Boston Globe and a fact checker for America's Test Kitchen. A rising junior at Boston University studying journalism and international relations, her work has been published in Poynter, CBS Boston and more. Previously, she was a ​radio production assistant at GBH, Boston's local NPR station, and editor-in-chief of BU's independent newspaper The Daily Free Press. For NewsBreak, Yang reports on her home state of California. Tips: angelaya@bu.edu | Twitter: @Angela_Y_Yang.

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