Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Issues Guidance on Student Foreign Travel

October 7, 2020

By: Barbara A. Lee, Ph.D.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued guidance for institutions whose students are planning international travel or participation in study abroad programs. 

The Guidance suggests that colleges and universities “consider postponing or canceling student international travel programs” because of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic in a number of international destinations. The Guidance suggests that “students may face unpredictable circumstances, such as travel restrictions, challenges returning home, and challenges accessing health care while abroad.”

The CDC suggests that college faculty and staff responsible for managing student international travel programs check the CDC’s COVID-19 Travel Health Notices by Destination and The U.S. Department of State’s Travel advisories

Furthermore, the CDC suggests that colleges check with various offices in the destination country, such as its Office of Foreign Affairs and/or its Ministry of Health. In addition, the U.S. Department of State provides COVID-19-specific entry requirements, such as COVID-19 testing and quarantine.

In light of the CDC’s strong recommendation to postpone or cancel study abroad and other international travel, institutions may wish to do the following:

  • Review website and other communications to ensure that it is clear that the institution reserves the right to postpone or cancel the program should health and safety conditions warrant it. It could be helpful to use “reservation of rights” clauses that allow the institution to make decisions based upon its own judgment (even if the CDC or other federal agencies don’t forbid or recommend against international travel).
  • Review contracts or other forms of agreement with students (and their parents) to ensure that the institution reserves the right to cancel or postpone international travel if, in its judgment, there are health and safety concerns. 
  • Ensure that students and parents are well informed, as early as possible, about the institution’s plans for forthcoming study abroad programs and the rationale for any action to cancel or postpone the program. Decisions to cancel or postpone should be made as early as possible so that students can make alternate plans.
  • Ensure that the institution’s policy on refunds is clear and well supported.

If you have any questions about the information presented here, please contact Barbara A. Lee, any attorney in Bond’s Higher Education practice or the attorney in the firm with whom you are regularly in contact.