Matt Kiraly contributed to this story

For students who are attending Walsh University in North Canton, there will be a unique opportunity to be awarded scholarship money.

The university is planning to award scholarships to students who are vaccinated against the Coronavirus in an effort to raise the number of vaccinated students on campus.

Rebecca Coneglio is the Vice President for Enrollment Management at Walsh and she says that the university was excited about students and staff coming back to campus this fall and wanted to give back to the students.

“Our leadership team was thinking of ways to provide some sense of normalcy for when the students come back in the fall semester,” says Coneglio. “We had these funds available and thought what better way to give back to the students than to provide some time of scholarship while hopefully finding a way to better protect our campus from COVID-19.”

There have been other insitinces of lottery-style giveaways to encourage individuals to get vaccinated. The state of Ohio announced a “Vax-a-Millon” drawing, where citizens have the opportunity to win five $1 million prizes. It initially worked as the state saw a 44% increase in the first week. However, a study conducted by researchers at Boston University School of Medicine found that Ohio’s lottery did not increase vaccination rates compared to states who did not have lottery-style giveaways according to a July 2nd study published by JAMA Network.

Coneglio says that even if a handful of students receive the vaccine, she sees it as a huge success for the university.

“Of course we’re hoping that this will encourage many of our students to get vaccinated,” Coneglio said. “But even if we just encourage a few students that consider getting vaccinated that weren’t considering before this, that’s a big win for us.”

The university hasn’t reported a case for the virus since April. Coneglio believes that communication along with respect and support for one another on campus is a huge reason as to how they got that number to zero.

“Since the pandemic started, we’ve been really diligent about communicating to our campus community the importance of staying safe,” she says. “We had the ‘Seven to Remember’ (which is the universitys’ seven step procedure to ensure campus safety against COVID-19) and it was constantly being communicated on our campus and it was just all in a campus community effort to support each other and I believe that’s what really kept the COVID cases down during the spring semester.”

The Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund provides colleges and universities funding to students who saw financial hardship during the pandemic. Walsh received $2.4 million from the fund and will use that money for the scholarships.

Coneglio says that the university is very thankful to receive those funds because it’s getting the message of encouraging students to get vaccinated across and supporting students with the scholarship money as well.

“They’re allocated for a number of different reasons but a portion of it was to be used to support the effort in communicating to students that they should consider getting vaccinated to help stop the spread,” says Coneglio. “That is why we decided to use some of those funds to help support this scholarship because that was the purpose of the fund and not only are we using it to help get the word out, but the dollars go back to the students and that’s what we’re all about is supporting our students.”

Walsh University is not requiring a COVID vaccination for students. However, Coneglio says that the university wants to encourage students to get vaccinated in order to become eligible for the scholarship. But at the end of the day, it’s their choice.

“This is a choice and so we’re not making it mandatory,” she says. “But if they want to qualify for the scholarship, we would recommend again getting in contact with their health care provider or their local pharmacy and schedule their appointment to get vaccinated and then we’ll put them in the drawing to be eligible for the scholarship.”