COVID vaccine: UW System scholarship $70K lottery campaign

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee hopes to get at least 70% of its students vaccinated against COVID-19 by mid-October.

Many universities across the country, including Marquette University, are requiring students to be fully vaccinated. At UW-Milwaukee, the campus bustling again, they hope cash will incentivize students instead.

"Even though I went to all of my classes last year, I didn’t make a single friend last year at UWM. Now I talk to people all day," said Sarah Meadows, a UW-Milwaukee junior. "I transferred after my freshman year to UWM, and the entire last year was online, and even though we only live 20 minutes away we never came onto campus."

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The UW System hopes to keep students in person all year. UW System President Tommy Thompson thinks the key to that is vaccinations.

The UW System is running the "70 for 70" campaign. If 70% of a UW System campus, excluding UW-Madison, gets vaccinated by mid-October – all students will be entered into a lottery to win one of 70, $70,000 scholarships.

"We just feel this is a much better way because mandating vaccinations is something sometimes, you know, has a feeling that maybe it’s too heavy-handed and so on," Thompson said.

Meadows said she is already vaccinated and hopes her classmates understand what is at stake.

"I know everyone wants to stay in person. I just wish everyone would just get vaccinated already because I can’t go back to being online," said Meadows.

Tommy Thompson

Thompson said they should know by the end of the week where each campus stands. The UW System is still collecting vaccination data from students.

If after the campaign the numbers are not where they should be, Thompson said he will reconsider a possible mandate. He continues to argue the UW System does not need to submit COVID-19 protocols to the state Legislature for approval; while lawsuits have been threatened, none have been filed.

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