Carleton College in Northfield announced Wednesday it will require students and employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 before they return to campus this fall, following the lead of a growing number of colleges nationwide.

Carleton's announcement comes just days after Macalester College in St. Paul declared it would require vaccinations for students, faculty and staff. The two colleges are the first in Minnesota to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations, offering limited exemptions.

"In light of our congregate living environment and educational mission, there is a strong ethical rationale for and public health benefit in requiring such vaccination," Carleton President Steve Poskanzer wrote in a message to students and faculty. He noted the school already requires flu vaccines for the campus community.

Poskanzer touted the requirement as a way to restore normalcy on the private college campus. He said he expects fall classes will be taught in person and normal campus operations will resume. Employees will begin returning to in-person work over the summer.

A campus mask mandate is unlikely this fall unless state or federal regulations require it, and residence hall occupancy will return to pre-pandemic levels, Poskanzer said. But the college will maintain some quarantine and isolation space and will continue to implement COVID-19 testing.

Ryan Faircloth • 612-673-4234

Twitter: @ryanfaircloth