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Federal Requirements for Missing Student Notification

Hillary Pettegrew, Esq.
February 2023
Requirements to help ensure compliance with the Department of Education’s mandate

Are your college or university’s notification policies involving missing students compliant with federal mandates? If not, you could face substantial fines.

In 2010, Department of Education (ED) regulations on notification requirements took effect with the reauthorization and expansion of the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA).

These regulations, which apply to all institutions participating in the Title IV federal student financial aid program, are triggered when a student residing in on-campus housing at a U.S. or foreign campus of the institution is missing for at least 24 hours. The regulations don’t apply to students who live on campus in the U.S. but are temporarily residing off-campus in study abroad programs.

Institutions may go further than the federal requirements and adopt policies for all missing students or students missing less than 24 hours. For example, the policy at New York University (NYU) applies to all missing students, including those enrolled in NYU-sponsored overseas programs.

What Does the HEOA Require?

The HEOA mandates institutions:

  • Develop a policy for reporting students missing from campus residential facilities for more than 24 hours.
  • Provide a way for each student to name a confidential emergency contact to be notified if the student is determined to be missing.
  • Establish procedures for notifying the designated emergency contact if the student is over age 18 or the student’s parents if the student is under 18.
  • Advise students that local law enforcement will be contacted if they are missing for more than 24 hours.
  • Publish missing student policies and procedures in their annual security report.

Institutions that do not comply with ED’s regulations face a penalty of up to $62,689 (as of 2023) per violation and possible exclusion from Title IV student financial assistance programs for repeated violations.

Title IV programs include:

  • Pell Grants
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants
  • The Federal Work-Study Program
  • Federal Perkins Loans
  • Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership
  • The Direct Loan Program


Additional Resources

Michigan State University: Missing Student Notification Policy

Roanoke College: Missing Student Notification Policy and Procedures

University of Illinois, Chicago: Missing Student Policy

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