SUNY Students Reach 99.5% COVID Vaccination Mandate Compliance Across SUNY’s 64 Campuses

October 13, 2021

Following Months of Aggressive Student-Driven Awareness Campaigns, SUNY Students Met the Call to Get Vaccinated to Protect Themselves and their Campus Communities

1,592 Mostly Commuter Students from a Handful of Community Colleges Remain Unvaccinated


Albany, NY – State University of New York Chancellor Jim Malatras today announced that SUNY students are nearing full compliance with the New York State Vaccine Mandate, reaching 99.5 percent compliance, allowing SUNY students to enjoy a more normal on-campus college experience this semester after a difficult past year and a half.

Following months of aggressive student-driven awareness campaigns, and thanks to campus leadership and staff for establishing student friendly, safe, and easily accessible options for students, just 1,592 students remain in noncompliance—mostly commuter students from a handful of community colleges. Campuses are working one-on-one with those students to get to 100 percent compliance. When campuses first began notifying those students out of compliance on the September 27 deadline, about 10,000 students were at risk of being deregistered.

In order to reach compliance, students had to have received one or more doses of an FDA-approved vaccine, or been approved for a medical or religious exemption. SUNY student vaccination rates are significantly higher than the national rate of 64.8 percent of most college age students (ages 18-24) with at least one dose. SUNY is the largest comprehensive system of public higher education with preliminary fall enrollment of about 375,000 students, and its student vaccination rate leads many of the larger colleges and universities—about seven percent higher than Michigan State University (90 percent), 12 percent higher than University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (85 percent), and 14 percent higher than Penn State (82.9 percent).

“There is a new energy on our campuses this semester because we have fully reopened, and the main reason we’ve been able to is because our students have stepped up and have gotten vaccinated. Our students have told us they wanted to get back on campus, return to the classrooms, reconnect with their friends, and participate in live, on-campus events, like athletics and the arts,” said Chancellor Malatras. “Today’s result is a testament to our students’ determination, and we thank them for doing the right thing, setting an example for public health, and once again proving there is no safer place to learn than at a SUNY campus.”

The SUNY Board of Trustees congratulates Chancellor Malatras, SUNY administration staff, campuses, and the students for working tirelessly over the past several months to reach this incredible achievement that will continue to keep SUNY campuses safe.

SUNY Student Advocate Fellow Kalief Metellus said, “Our students have been the unsung heroes since the beginning of this health crisis and have played a pivotal role in working to finally put the COVID-19 pandemic behind them. Overcoming enormous challenges in dealing with the impacts of this pandemic is no stranger to these students, and even after over a year of hardship, they still persisted and rose to the occasion to do their part to protect each other and their entire campus communities. The results we see today are a direct acknowledgement of the immense dedication our students have to their education.”

Helena van Nieuwenhuizen, PhD student at Stony Brook University, Biophysics and Computational Neuroscience, said, “I got my shot on campus so that we could open the school back up and see everyone back. If you’re still feeling hesitant, imagine how nice it will be to come to class in-person and be surrounded by your friends and interact with your teachers. No one wants to get shots, but society is where it is today because of the advancement of medical science and vaccines. We’re too young to have seen this, but people used to die all the time from plagues, so the fact that we have vaccines is a wonderful advancement to be celebrated because now we can protect each other. Think of yourself not just as an individual, but part of a society. We need to look out for each other. The vaccine is the key.”

SUNY Potsdam Senior Breanna Cardinal said, “We went from having in-person classes, sitting next to each other and meeting people that way, to suddenly being in my bedroom with the door shut by myself. I missed out on a lot of friendships that could have been made my junior year that I didn’t get to have at all. Since getting vaccinated, I was able to go out on campus and off of campus, and I’ve already made a lot of friendships. Getting through this pandemic is a group effort.”

Niagara County Community College Sophomore Gabbie McDuffie said, “Last year with COVID everything was different. We couldn’t have our full basketball season and had a lot of regulations about what we could and couldn’t do. Now we are practicing in person and most of my classes are in person. I’m excited to see how everything is going to be because it really is like my first year in college without COVID taking over the complete year.”

SUNY Oneonta Freshman Mel Telesmanic said, “I’m a Music Industry major and a Jazz Studies minor. We all forgot how to act on stage and perform with other people, but it’s still really nice because it feels comfortable again. I feel very fortunate that the transition has been relatively smooth for me and that everyone around me is just as excited about performing again. It was worth getting the vaccine. It makes your life so much easier and opens you up to so many opportunities.”

Even before a COVID vaccine was approved by the FDA for those ages 16 and older in April 2021, SUNY began an awareness campaign—#KnowYourVax—to provide information about the vaccine options from medical experts across the SUNY system. Since then, and building up to SUNY’s 30-Day Vax Challenge this summer, SUNY has brought vaccines to the forefront through the student-driven social media campaign where students urge each other to get vaccinated.

Additionally, Chancellor Malatras implemented a vaccine mandate for SUNY management confidential employees at SUNY system administration. The 550 employees are at 100 percent compliance. Currently, more than 75 percent of faculty and staff across SUNY are vaccinated as SUNY continues to work with union representatives to get additional staff vaccinated, but SUNY cannot currently mandate those employees be vaccinated. Instead, SUNY has a vaccination or mandatory weekly testing policy for staff that are part of collective bargaining units.

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, and more than 95 percent of all New Yorkers live within 30 miles of any one of SUNY’s 64 colleges and universities. Across the system, SUNY has four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, a law school, the country’s oldest school of maritime, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. In total, SUNY serves about 1.4 million students amongst its entire portfolio of credit- and non-credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide are nearly $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2023, including significant contributions from students and faculty. There are more than three million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunities, visit

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Holly Liapis
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