Educational Fee Waiver

Educational Fee Waivers
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is an outstanding natural classroom that provides educational opportunities to many schools and institutions each year. In keeping with this commitment of encouraging educational use of the park, entrance fees are waived for educational groups that fall within the criteria listed below.

The Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA), Public Law 108-447, provides the National Park Service statutory authority to allow outings conducted for non-commercial educational purposes by accredited academic institutions to obtain a waiver of park entrance fees. Commercial enterprises are not eligible for fee waivers, but school groups using a commercial vehicle for transportation only may apply for a fee waiver.

Criteria for Academic Fee Waivers:

National Park Service (NPS) regulations allow school groups and other bona fide national and international academic institutions to obtain a waiver for park entrance fees, provided that the visit is for educational credit or scientific purposes, and that the resources or facilities the group proposes to use support those purposes.

Organized, educational groups of children who are less than 16 years of age may enter the park free of charge and do not need a fee waiver. (See section 10.1.1) However, the park requires a waiver application to account for the free entry of adult chaperones and to manage park resources. Adults in personal vehicles with an organized youth group visiting for the sole purpose of recreation are not exempt from the entrance fee.

Academic fee waivers are not granted automatically. Applicant groups must show they qualify for the waiver. There are three criteria the group must meet to qualify for an academic fee waiver: eligibility, educational purpose, and relevance of park resources or facilities. These criteria are detailed below:

Please be aware…

  • Fee waivers are not available at entrance stations.
  • Academic fee waivers do not include camping or other activity fees.
  • Academic fee waivers cannot be granted for hardship factors.
  • Service, civic, or fraternal organizations, such as Scouting, Rotary, and Elks, do not qualify for an academic fee waiver unless the group meets the criteria above.
  • “Blanket” academic fee waivers for all national parks are not issued or accepted. Groups must submit separate requests to individual parks for approval. A list of parks and contact addresses is at
  • The number of adult sponsors or faculty included in a fee waiver is limited. Please use a guideline of one adult sponsor or faculty per 5 elementary school students; 10 high school students; 20 college students. Specific district, local or state policies and safety standards will be considered.
  • Number of vehicles: Due to high visitation and limited parking at popular sites, the number of vehicles traveling under a fee waiver should follow to the same ratio listed above. I.E. a student group of 30 would have roughly six chaperone vehicles, not including a bus. This guideline can be adjusted if all students will be traveling in personal vehicles.
  • Adults and/or vehicles not included in the fee waiver will be required to pay the per vehicle or per person fee, depending on vehicle size.


National or international applicants must prove they are a school or bona fide academic institution by submitting one of the following types of documentation:
1. A statement confirming educational or scientific tax exemption from the IRS or the applicant's national, state, or local tax authority
2. A statement, from a bona fide academic institution meeting one of these eligibility standards, confirming that the group is visiting for the purpose of providing transferable academic credit based on a curriculum
3. a statement of accreditation or recognition as an educational institution from a legitimate international, national, regional, state, or local authority for the applicant's location.

How to Apply:

  • Complete the Education Program Request Form and email form to
  • Forms must be submitted at least two weeks before the visit date.
  • Requests are required for all educational groups, including groups not participating in a ranger-led field trip.

If your request is approved, you will receive an academic fee waiver via email. Each vehicle must present a copy of the approved fee waiver at the park entrance station.

If your request is denied, you will receive a letter from the park explaining why your group does not qualify. If required material is not submitted, the park will attempt to contact and assist you.

Last updated: March 17, 2023

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