Risk Management Travel Guidelines

Risk Management Travel Guidelines

There are three main types of travel that will generate travel questions

  1. Travel for University Employees (including project-related research)
  2. University Sponsored Student Group Travel (both academic and extra-curricular)
  3. Recognized Student Organization Sponsored Travel

Travel for University Employees (including project-related research)

Here are some important resources:

University Sponsored Student Group Travel

When students are involved in travel there are additional guidelines to be followed. Policy FN20 outlines approval guidelines for both domestic and international University Sponsored Student Group Travel.

  1. The first step is to determine whether or not the student group travel is University Sponsored and be aware there are additional requirements for international travel. A University sponsored trip is one that is being coordinated by a University employee, with University funding being used for the trip. NOTE: Travel sponsored by a Recognized Student Organization is not supported by the University.
  2. It is important to note that all University sponsored student travel requires an employee to be in a supervisory capacity for the duration of the trip. With approval of the academic department head, an exception can be made for individual students traveling to academic conferences where expenses are paid by the University directly to the Conference for registration and associated expenses and/or where the student is reimbursed by the University for expenses. See table on page 6 for travel expense guidelines.
  3. Travel can include a field trip only a few miles from the campus or overnight trips much farther away. If the trip is sponsored by the University then the University has a responsibility to offer transportation for the students attending regardless of the distance. Exceptions: See the Students Driving to Events section below for detailed examples of when it is appropriate for students to drive to events.

University Sponsored Trips- Who is permitted to attend?

Whether the trip is a bus trip or an international program trip, there are always questions about who is permitted to attend the trip. The Risk Management Office has determined the following individuals are permitted to attend University sponsored Student Travel:

  • Any Penn State faculty or staff member
  • Any Penn State student* regardless of campus location
  • Spouses of Penn State students, faculty or staff (with the permission of the relevant Budget Executive, Chancellor or Dean)
  • Depending on the trip circumstances it may be possible for the children of students, faculty or staff to attend a domestic trip as long as the parent is traveling with the child, but this would need to be approved by the Budget Executive. If the child's parent is a faculty or staff member, then the question should be posed as to if the parent or child were to become sick and needed to leave the trip, would the trip be able to continue with the appropriate University oversight and achieve the trip's original goals. NOTE: International trips need special scrutiny and any time there is a potential for a child of a student, faculty or staff member to attend an international trip, the Risk Management Office must be consulted prior to any arrangements being confirmed.

* For the purposes of these Travel Guidelines, an individual must be scheduled in University classes at the time of travel to be considered a Penn State student. An individual who has not yet taken any Penn State classes is not considered in the Penn State student category until classes start.

University Sponsored Trips- Who is not permitted to attend?

The following individuals are strongly discouraged from being able to attend University sponsored trips, unless the Chancellor of the sponsoring Campus or Dean of the sponsoring College is willing to assume the financial risk for these individuals, since they do not have a direct relationship to the University. The Campus/College will be held financially responsible for any costs involved in incidents, accidents or illness resulting as part of attending a University sponsored trip for the following individuals:

  • Relatives other than the spouse or child of Penn State students, faculty or staff (including parents of students)
  • Students from other Universities
  • Any children under 18 unless their parent or legal guardian is on the trip as well
  • Alumni
  • Community members

If the Chancellor or Dean accepts the financial risk to permit any of the individuals in the "strongly discouraged" categories above, then the Financial Officer for the Campus/College must send an email to the Risk Management Office stating the acceptance of this financial risk. Keep in mind that the sponsoring Campus/College may develop more restrictive criteria to determine permitted participants, however it is important to understand the financial risks involved before developing that criteria. The intent of these guidelines is to make sure everyone is aware of the financial risks that are being taken regarding the participants of University sponsored trips and to allow each Campus/College the ability to make informed decisions when it comes to these trips. If you have any questions contact the Risk Management Office.

Non-University Vehicles Used by Employees on University Business

Employees performing their assigned University duties utilizing non-University vehicles (personal cars, rental cars, etc.) will utilize the insurance specifically procured for the non-University vehicle as primary. The University does provide excess auto liability insurance (liability only- no physical damage coverage, such as collision and comprehensive insurance) which comes into play beyond the specific vehicle's primary liability insurance if the accident is serious enough to exhaust the vehicle's insurance.

Students Driving to Events

  • The University has a responsibility to offer transportation for students to and from events that are University sponsored and held off-campus.
  • If a student chooses to drive to an event off-campus (regardless of whether it is sponsored by the University or a Recognized Student Organization) that is fine, but the student does so at their own risk.
  • It is not permissible for University employees to match up students to drive other students to a University Sponsored event off-campus. In this instance the University should be offering transportation for the event. If students choose to drive individually, they are on their own (both the driver, who exposes his/her personal auto insurance, and the passenger, who assume some risk by riding with another student). If the situation requires that the University rely upon students to drive, then Risk Management will need to be consulted to review the situation. This should only take place in very rare instances.
  • If an area has a reliable public transportation system and the University sponsored event is easily reached by using such public transportation, this can be used in place of the University providing the transportation directly.
  • If a University class requires students to participate in a type of activity or choices of activities off-campus (i.e. attend two cultural events throughout the semester) and there is not a specific date or time to do the activity, this is not viewed as University Sponsored Student Group Travel. However if the class requires students to attend a specific cultural event on a given day off-campus and it was not clearly outlined prior to signing up for the class that the student would have to provide their own transportation to/from this event then the University has a responsibility to offer transportation. If transportation is offered and all students choose not to take University provided transportation then the University no longer needs to provide transportation.
  • It must be clear to the students that travel is a requirement prior to signing up for a class so if they are not able to fulfill the requirement they have the opportunity not to sign up for that class or trip.
  • Funding:
    • If tickets are being subsidized by the University or the Student Activity Fee for an off-campus event being sponsored by the University, then the University is required to offer transportation to and from the event.
    • If the University is selling tickets to an off-campus event with no subsidy there is no requirement for the University to offer transportation to and from the event.
    • Example: The All-University Day football game is a University sponsored event and therefore the University must offer transportation to and from the game for the students purchasing tickets through the All-University Day ticket allotment. Students do not have to partake in the transportation that is offered, but it must be offered. The University may set a deadline for students to take advantage of the offered transportation.
  • If a student representative from a Recognized Student Organization chooses to drive an artist to and from the campus/hotel etc. they are on their own. If work study students are doing this as part of their paid duties, then it must be part of their job description, and they must be 21 years of age and driving a University vehicle.
  • If there are questions about the specific situation, please contact the Risk Management Office for an analysis.

Emergency Information for University or Recognized Student Organization Sponsored Student Group Travel

The campus should retain a list of all participants traveling on all trips with cell phone numbers for employees traveling. In addition, an itinerary should also be kept and available to be retrieved in the event of an emergency, especially if a trip involves visiting multiple locations. This information should be kept on campus in a designated office so it can be retrieved in the event of an emergency. Student emergency contact information is available in the student system and should be accessed in accordance with Policy SY03- Emergencies Involving Students.

Bus Trip Guidelines

Recognized Student Organization Sponsored Travel

Domestic Travel

Who can attend?

Who cannot attend?

International Travel

International Travel sponsored by the University
Refer to University Policy FN-20 for University-sponsored International travel procedures.

International Travel by Recognized Student Organizations
The International Group Risk Management Checklist for Student Organizations must be completed with the designated Student Activities Staff Member at each campus. This form can be found on the Private tab of the Risk Management website. Student organizations that sponsor an international trip must complete the following requirements.

NOTE: No travel will be allowed to any country on the Department of State's Travel Warning List.


The completed Risk Management Checklist must be routed to Richel Perretti to be processed will all the supporting documentation mentioned above except for the waivers. The Office of Risk Management will scan and email a copy of the signed checklist to the staff member that signed the checklist once it has been reviewed and approved. Signed checklists and waivers must be kept on file for 2 years following the completion of travel.

Travel Expense Guidelines for Students and Recognized Student Organizations

The table below outlines how University funding for individual student travel expenses (for a trip which is not sponsored by the University) or recognized student organization travel expenses should be handled.

Travel Expense Guidelines
Travel Expense for: Individual Student Recognized Student Organization (RSO)
Hotel It is discouraged for the University to pay directly for hotel expenses for an individual student. Strong preference is for the student to be reimbursed. If Department chooses to pay directly then their College or Campus accepts the financial risks related to this. Any University funding given for a RSO sponsored event or travel should be transferred to the RSO account for the RSO to pay for the expenses. It is also acceptable for the University to reimburse the RSO for approved expenses.
Conference Registration It is acceptable for the University to pay directly for conference registration fees for an individual student.
Airfare It is acceptable for the University to pay directly for conference airfare for an individual student.
Car Rental It is strongly discouraged for the University to pay directly for car rental expenses for an individual student. Strong preference is for the student to be reimbursed. If Department chooses to pay directly then their College or Campus accepts the financial risks related to this.
  • Regardless of the sponsor (University or Recognized Student Organization) all Bus Trips MUST use a bus from the University's Accepted Charter Bus Lines list.
  • The University's Accepted Charter Bus Lines list includes all Charter Bus Companies that have met the University's insurance requirements. These are the only Charter Bus Companies approved.
  • The Risk Management Office website also has information outlined on the requirements to add additional bus companies to the Charter Bus Lines list. Additions or deletions to this list may occur at any time, so the list should be checked for each bus trip, especially to make sure the "valid to" date encompasses your trip.
    • Faculty/Staff- Not attending as a PSU employee, just as an attendee.
    • Official Club Advisor can attend and will be covered by the University's General Liability Insurance since he/she is acting within their job duties.
    • Any PSU Students regardless of location.
    • Children under 18 can only attend if their parent or legal guardian is on the bus trip as well. It is important for Recognized Student Organizations to understand that if they permit someone under 18 to attend without their parent or legal guardian they are opening up their student organization to a great deal of potential liability.
    • Friends, Non-PSU students and relatives other than a spouse are discouraged from attending.
    • A participant roster to include name, student ID number, access ID, Passport number and international phone number (if applicable) must be submitted.
    • The University must have the name and international cell phone number of at least one participant in case of an emergency.
    • A detailed itinerary for the trip must be submitted, to include including travel and lodging information, and a day-by-day outline of where the organization will be.
    • The members of the organization must have local contact information for emergencies or other situations that arise. The information should include phone numbers for local police, local hospital, and the closest US Embassy. Additionally, they should also be given Penn State contact information to report emergencies that occur overseas and to consult staff for Code of Conduct violations.
    • All members of the student organization must sign and submit the Statement of Responsibility Waiver and Release for Student Organization International Group Travel. This form can be found on the Private tab of the Risk Management website.
    • Students must be registered for classes at Penn State to attend the trip. No students under the age of 18 are permitted to travel with a student organization.
    • All participants must purchase the international health and emergency coverage offered through HTH Worldwide, a Penn State Group Travel Insurance Policy through the Student Health Insurance Office (302 Student Health Center, 814-865-7467).
    • All Penn State students, faculty and staff that are traveling internationally must attend an Emergency Preparedness Session and Pre-Departure Checklist Session conducted by the Global Operations Staff at Penn State. Students must have attended a training within the last 2 years.(Contact: Kara Amoratis, 814-863-3989, kea15@ip.psu.edu)
    • All trips must be registered with the State Department's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. Doing so will allow the State Department to help the members of your organization should an emergency occur in that country while you are traveling. NOTE: Only US citizens are able to register. Non-US citizens should see if their home country has a similar program and register with them if possible.
    • A Penn State faculty or staff member must accompany all student organization sponsored trips on which five or more students will be traveling. The faculty or staff member must have attended the Emergency Preparedness session designed for faculty and staff within the last two years. Training dates and times for staff are at the Global Penn State Webpage.
    • The Recognized Student Organization must complete the International Risk Management Checklist for Student Organization Sponsored Travel with the Associate Director of Student Activities or his/her designee at University Park and the Office for Student Affairs/Student Life at Commonwealth Campuses a minimum of 1 week prior to the scheduled departure date.
    • If a student organization is using a national organization that coordinates aspects of the trip in country, has professional staff and an acceptable amount of security, exceptions may be granted to permit recent graduates and/or community members to attend. An exception may also be granted to not require a faculty or staff member to attend. You must consult with Richel Perretti in the Risk Management Office (rap126@psu.edu, 814-863-5538) to grant any exceptions.