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Eckerd College brings on its largest incoming class, shares Covid-19 safety measures

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Photo by Lisa Presnail

On Aug. 10, the liberal arts school on Boca Ciega Bay began welcoming 718 first-year and transfer students, the largest incoming class it’s ever had.

Eckerd’s influx of students comes as other colleges and universities face falling admission rates, and as schools across the country struggle to keep Covid-19 cases low among mixes of vaccinated and unvaccinated community members. 

The college’s residents are not required to be vaccinated, but school officials say opting out from the shot comes with a price tag.

Those who choose not to get the shot, unless for medical or religious exemptions, must pay $750 per semester to compensate for their own weekly Covid-19 tests.

Eckerd has been campaigning to encourage students, faculty and staff to be vaccinated since vaccines were first available,” said Adam Colby, assistant vice president for operations and emergency management.

The school did, however, announce on Aug. 23 that it will require vaccines for faculty and staff.

Masks are also required in all indoor spaces, as well as at outdoor events and outdoor classes, at faculty discretion. 

Despite these ongoing restrictions and last year’s transitions between in-person and online classes, John Sullivan, vice president for enrollment, thinks Eckerd has “a special magic” that contributes to its growing numbers.

Sullivan says this magic is “a combination of faculty dedication to student success, student-life programming that builds community, a picturesque location, rigorous academic programs and a spirit of innovation that makes us eager to adapt to the needs of students.”

The enrollment official also said the school’s responsible Covid-19 safety measures, effective online teaching methods and ability to take classes outside on its 188-acre campus contributed to the large incoming class. 

While colleges and universities across the nation grapple with an overall decline in enrollment, Eckerd has been struggling to make room for their ballooning population.

In recent years the school began converting some double (two-person) dorm rooms to triples, a trend they continued into the pandemic. The housing office is also reserving some of its rooms for quarantining students, which stretches their capacity even thinner. 

Now, according to Sullivan, Eckerd is encouraging more students to take advantage of newly built apartments in the growing Skyway Marina District, five minutes away from the school’s front gate.

As the community continuously adapts to cope with health guidelines and its own growing popularity, admission staff are proud to say the school has maintained its “Eckerdness,” throughout the pandemic.

664 new college students and 54 transfer students from 47 states and 23 countries joined Eckerd to begin their fall semester in August. Returning students are expected to move in during the first week of September.

Eckerd reports its vaccination rates and positive Covid-19 test numbers here.

 

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