Student Absence Policy

Custodian of Policy: Vice President Academic Affairs

Relevant Minnesota State System Policy: Board Policy 5.12

Relevant Procedure: Student Absence Procedure

Effective Date: Spring 2019

Last Review: Spring 2022

Next Review: Spring 2029


This policy is meant to address activities that are assessed as part of the student’s grade, rather than course content. It is the student’s responsibility to complete all course requirements and meet all student learning outcomes, regardless of whether or not they are able to attend all class meetings. Responsibility for learning the material presented during a class meeting resides with the student. Instructors are not obligated to provide individual instruction when students miss class meetings.

If a student has an excused absence on a day that an assessed activity occurred, then the instructor must provide the student with an opportunity to complete that assessed activity. In general, dropping the assessed activity from the course’s grade calculation is not considered a reasonable alternative, even in cases where course grading policy includes such procedures as dropping the lowest grade on an assessed activity. In cases in which the nature of the assessed activity is such that it is not feasible to complete the activity outside of class, the instructor may provide a reasonable alternative assessed activity that meets the same learning outcomes. In cases where an alternative activity is also not feasible, the instructor must notify the appropriate dean. Only in this case may the instructor choose to drop the assessed activity for the individual student or to assign a grade of zero to it. The instructor may also choose some other solution that is consistent with the expected learning outcomes for the course.

If a student has an unexcused absence on a day that an assessed activity occurred, then the instructor is not obligated to provide the student an opportunity to do either that assessed activity or any alternative activity.

Additionally, if a student misses 20% or more of the course material, the instructor has the right to view any additional absences as unexcused absences, regardless of the reason for the absence.

Excused absences include:

  • Absences related to academic endeavors, as approved by the appropriate academic Dean or by the Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs. These include absences due to field trips for a class, participation in the statewide Student Academic Conference, presentation of research at a conference, etc.
  • Absences related to students representing the university in an official capacity, as approved by the appropriate Dean, the Athletic Director, or other administrator. These include absences due to Varsity athletic competitions, Model UN, DECA competitions, etc.
  • Absences related to participation in recognized student organizations, as approved by the Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dean of Students or Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs. These situations include absences due to club athletic teams reaching championships, attendance at a Graduate School fair or a Career Fair, etc.
  • Absences due to religious or cultural observances, as coordinated through the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. These situations include occurrences where, due to the student’s religious or cultural association, the student would be expected to participate in specific religious, family, or cultural observances or events that would prevent class attendance.
  • Absences due to short-term military requirements, as approved by the Dean of Students. These situations include absences due to weekend training for students in the National Guard, short-term duty related to natural disasters, etc. See also the Military Withdrawal Policy.
  • Long-term illnesses or family or personal emergencies, as approved by the Dean of Students. In the case of long-term illnesses, appropriate medical documentation will be required.
  • Absences deemed necessary by a student’s doctor as related to being pregnant and parenting. Pregnant and parenting students are defined as those experiencing pregnancy, childbirth, false pregnancy, termination of pregnancy, or recovering from any of these conditions. The student should be referred to Accessibility Resources in alignment with other students who may be experiencing a temporary medical condition. Thus, only Accessibility Resources shall request and hold any medical documentation.
  • Absences due to Jury Duty, as approved by the Dean of Students, with appropriate documentation required.
  • Student absences due to the death of a family member will be addressed utilizing the Student Bereavement Policy.
  • In the case of Tri-College students, other visiting students, or PSEO students, absences due to activities specific to the student’s home institution that are the equivalent of MSUM activities that would be excused at MSUM will similarly be excused. These situations may include a PSEO student’s varsity athletic events, science class’s field trip, etc. However, the student is expected to follow the procedures used at MSUM to verify the excused absence and to make up any work missed.

Other absences, such as short-term illnesses or personal or family reasons that are not covered above, are left to the discretion of the individual course instructor to decide whether they are to be considered excused or not. Since different courses have different student learning outcomes and class activities, the determination of whether an absence is excused or unexcused may differ for different courses or for different faculty members. For medical excuses, the university expectation is that medical documentation is required, although individual faculty members are free to waive that requirement for their class. Individual faculty members, based on the nature of their course and learning activities, may also make a distinction between medical documentation that say only that a student has been seen by a doctor and one that excuses them from class/work activities due to a medical condition.


Minnesota State University Moorhead expects students to complete all course requirements, which are expected to include class attendance either in person or online, as appropriate. However, it is recognized that absences can occur through events outside of the student’s control. This creates a need to determine what is considered an excused absence and what follow-up actions should occur to ensure that course-related student learning outcomes are maintained.

1 If there is a conflict between this policy and state or federal regulations, such as Title IX, then the state or federal regulation will be followed.