A new piece of legislation would reimburse SUNY and CUNY students who were disenrolled from their courses for failing to comply with SUNY’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
The legislation — S.8755 — is currently in the Senate Higher Education Committee and would amend Section 1 of State Education Law to allow reimbursement to these students.
“I support the vaccine as a personal choice,” the legislation’s lead sponsor, Sen. George Borrello (R-57th district), said in a statement. “If SUNY wishes to restrict this low-risk group then they should refund all fees and expenses. This was a disproportionate, severe sanction SUNY handed down to these students.”
The Assembly version of the bill — A.9565 — was co-sponsored by John Salka (R-121st district), Joe Angelino (R-122nd district), Karl Brabenec (R-98th district) and Marjorie Byrnes (R-133rd district). It is currently in the Assembly Higher Education Committee.
One thousand five hundred sixteen SUNY students were disenrolled for failing to comply with the state’s vaccine mandate, according to Borrello. The state system received 8,134 vaccine exemption requests — 7,048 of which were religious and 1,086 of which were medical. Nearly three-quarters of exemption requests were approved.
UB has granted 792 religious or medical vaccine exemptions, as of March 21, according to Student Health Services data. Some of these students may have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, although they all did not receive a booster shot. It is unclear how many students were disenrolled from UB as a result of non-compliance with the mandate.
Approximately 97.59% of UB students have received a booster dose, as of March 21.
SUNY schools were able to give students a grace period of no longer than 35 days from the time a vaccine received full Food and Drug Administration approval to either show proof of a completed full vaccine series or submit requests for exemption on medical or religious grounds.
SUNY was one of thousands of institutions to require COVID-19 vaccines. The system enrolled 394,000 students in fall 2020. The disenrolled population represents 0.38% of that total.
The legislation is sponsored only by Republicans, making it unlikely to pass. Democrats have supermajorities in both chambers and control the governor’s mansion.
“More than 1,500 students were forced out of SUNY schools, disenrolled because they were unable to comply with SUNY’s vaccine mandate,” Borrello said. “Many of these students had applied for medical or religious exemptions. It’s unconscionable that SUNY would keep their money after kicking them out of school.”
Justin Weiss is the managing editor and can be reached at email@example.com
Justin Weiss is The Spectrum's managing editor. In his free time, he can be found hiking, playing baseball or throwing things at his TV when his sports teams aren't winning. His words have appeared in Elite Sports New York and the Long Island Herald. He can be found on Twitter @Jwmlb1.