Covid Challenges for Colleges – Fall 2021

Submitted by Jeanne Steffener, Tulalip Tribes Higher Ed

The Delta variant appears to be the dominant coronavirus strain in the United States today. This virus is highly transmissible. “Data suggests that vaccinated people maybe able to spread infections caused by the highly transmissible variant.”1 CDC Director, Rochelle Walensky told reporters in July that “The good news is that all three coronavirus vaccines authorized in the United States offer strong protection against severe disease and death from covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. Preliminary data from several states over the past several months suggests that 99.5 percent of covid-19 related deaths occurred among unvaccinated people.”

So, what does this mean for colleges and universities hoping to return to the classroom in the fall? In less than a month, students are planning to go back to school as colleges/universities attempt their first in-person classroom sessions in over a year and a half, since March 2020. However, a nationwide surge in the Delta variant looms heavy and is complicating future plans. Since the variant is so contagious, higher ed institutions are watching it closely.
  In Washington State, Governor Jay Inslee recently ordered all employees at state public colleges to get vaccinated against Covid-19 with the Delta variant surging throughout the United States, targeting the unvaccinated and children. “Early Research suggests the Delta variant is about 50 percent more contagious than the Alpha variant, which was first identified in the United Kingdom and became the predominant variant in the United States during the spring”2 of 2020.

Colleges are eager to resume classes in Autumn, 2021 after having to revamp what school looks like and they have been bringing online learning to students as an alternate delivery system while the virus and variants continue to assault and kill people around the world. Due to the deadly severity of the Delta variant of coronavirus, more colleges are giving out incentives and penalties in their efforts to get students and staff vaccinated before the beginning of the fall term. According to Yale Medicine: “A major worry right now is Delta, a highly contagious SARS-CoV-2 virus strain, which was first identified in India in December. It swept rapidly through that country and Great Britain before reaching the U.S., where it is now the predominant variant.”3 Washington State is among a growing list of colleges and universities mandating proof of vaccination for the fall 2021 term to keep themselves and others safe. 

“WASHINGTON STATE: Central Washington University, Clover Park Technical College, Eastern Washington University, Evergreen State College, Gonzaga University, Heritage University, Highline College, Pacific Lutheran University, St. Martin’s University, Seattle Colleges (Central, North, South), Seattle University, Seattle Pacific University, Spokane Community College, Spokane Falls Community College, Tacoma Community College, University of Puget Sound, University of Washington (Tacoma, Bothell, Seattle), Washington State University, Wenatchee Valley College, Western Washington University, Whitman College, Whitworth University”,including Washington State Community Colleges. The complete list of schools throughout the United State can be found at: Students should check with their schools about the specific requirements of that institution.

The Higher ED Team is ready to assist you on your educational journey. You can either call us at 360-716-4888 or email us at for more information for Fall 2021 term.

  •  “What you need to know about the highly contagious delta variant” by Lindsey Bever, Joel Achenbach, Kim Bellware and Lateshia Beachum. August 18, 2021. Read more at:
  •   “What you need to know about the highly contagious delta variant” by Lindsey Bever, Joel Achenbach, Kim Bellware and Lateshia Beachum. August 18, 2021. Read more at:
  • “5 Things to Know About the Delta Variant” by Kathy Katella. August 18, 2021. Read more at:
  •  “State-by-state look at colleges requiring Covid-19 vaccines”. August 10, 2021 Read more at: