By Olivia Nicoletti and Sarah Siock
Three Rider students started the semester off with a nice surprise when they learned they received a year of free tuition for submitting proof of COVID-19 vaccination.
Students learned they would have a chance to receive free tuition on July 29 from an email sent by Rider President Gregory Dell’Omo. The email explained that the submission of the vaccination cards was due Aug. 1 through the Healthy Broncs portal, and anyone who submitted proof past that date was not eligible for the free tuition. Students who showed proof of at least one dose of a two-dose vaccine were also eligible. Rider randomly selected one undergraduate student, one graduate student and one continuing education student to receive free tuition for the 2021-22 academic year on Aug. 5.
According to the Rider website, the chance of receiving free tuition “[excluded] students who already receive grants, scholarships and/or discounts from federal, state and institutional financial aid that are equal to or exceed the cost of full tuition.”
Sophomore exercise science major Jordyn Locks, Andrea McManus, a graduate student in the school of psychology, and Brian Lambracht, a continuing studies student in business administration were the three lucky students selected for free tuition.
“I really appreciate and am grateful to get free tuition. It also makes me excited for the semester. There is decreased pressure on myself financially, so there is a greater chance that I will perform better. I did decide to get the vaccine before Rider offered to pick three students. I was fully vaccinated as of June 10 of 2021,” said Lambracht. “Getting myself vaccinated increases my self-esteem. I know that I am not only doing the right thing for myself but also for those around me. I care about the health and safety of myself and others.”
The university announced on April 29 that all students would be required to be vaccinated to attend in-person classes, live in the residence halls or access campus with valid religious and documented medical exemptions being considered. While Rider did implement the vaccine requirement with 96% of the student body fully vaccinated, Associate Vice President for University Marketing and Communications Kristine Brown said the free tuition was “an effort to reward those students who were compliant, and to encourage those who hadn’t yet been compliant by the Aug. 1 deadline,” to submit proof of vaccination.
“We are extremely pleased to say that our student population is now 96% fully vaccinated, and 4% have received an approved exemption. This very high rate of vaccination among our students will allow us to have the safest possible campus experience this year,” said Brown. “The three students who were chosen to receive free tuition for being compliant with our vaccine rules are not only very lucky, but they are great examples of how we can come together as a university community to keep us as healthy as possible, while still enjoying what we all love most about the Rider experience – the in-person engagement both in and out of the classroom.”
Carol Curtis ‘69, ‘11 was originally one of the three students selected to receive free tuition. However, Curtis, who earned her bachelor’s at 61 years old and has continued to audit classes at Rider since, asked Rider to choose another student.
“I thought, ‘well, I could do my master’s …’ But there are so many students here, you know, young students right out of high school that are getting into a lot of debt. I knew the tuition would mean a whole lot more to them than it would to me,” said Curtis.
McManus agreed that the tuition meant a great deal to her and that it took away financial worries.
“I got vaccinated in March before Rider made the decision. I wanted to do my part and what was right for us all globally. Receiving free tuition for the semester is life-changing, and it came at the perfect time. I started my school psychology internship this year and being able to focus solely on the work – learning how to best help students reach their full potential in the classroom and beyond – while not having to worry about the financial aspect of my education is a gift and one I won’t soon forget,” said McManus. “I will use it, and I will pay it forward through my work. I so strongly believe in the good in people, and so much good will come from this. I can’t thank the university enough.”