Leaves of Absence

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Teachers College Policy Library

Leaves of Absence

Owner: Vice Provost for Student Affairs

URL: http://www.tc.columbia.edu/policylibrary/Leaves of Absence

Students enrolled in degree programs at Teachers College are expected to maintain continuous registration every Fall and Spring term. Students enrolled in summer intensive programs are expected to be registered for course work each summer term. See the College’s Continuous Enrollment Policy.

This policy explains when, under appropriate circumstances, students may be permitted to take leaves of absence and be excused from the requirement of continuous registration.

Leaves of Absence

There are three types of leaves of absence for which a student may apply, depending on circumstances: military, medical, and personal. A leave may be granted only to a student in good academic standing (as defined by the College and the student’s academic department or program) and academically eligible to continue in the degree program when he or she returns from leave.

Military leaves are governed by federal regulations. A student taking a military leave is encouraged to contact the Registrar’s Office (212-678-4050 or registrar@tc.edu) as soon as possible for assistance in making arrangements as the terms for such leaves may differ.

A medical or personal leave must be requested and granted prior to or during the term for which it is requested; it cannot be granted retroactively. When it is determined to be required under the circumstances, to protect the safety, health and well-being of the student or others, a compulsory medical leave may be granted on behalf of the student. See below.

A leave may be approved at any time during a student’s period of study, except during the add/drop period of a student’s first term of study at Teachers College, when a deferment of admission is more appropriate. For a deferment, a student should contact the Office of Admission to ask about a deferral and drop of registration (if applicable).

A student seeking a leave during a term may request that the College permit the drop of the student’s coursework without academic or financial penalty. If the student is granted an incomplete in any course, tuition and fees associated with that course will not be refunded. Under the grading policy, students have a year to complete incomplete grades. The decision to take an incomplete may not be reversed or changed to a drop at a later time.

A student who has engaged in behavior that may violate rules, regulations, or policies of the College may be required to participate in the disciplinary process prior to the consideration of a leave request. If a leave is granted prior to the conclusion of any disciplinary procedure, the process will be continued upon the student’s return.

Taking a leave may affect not only academic progress but health care coverage, financial aid, housing, and immigration status. Students considering a leave should review all of these possible issues and consult with the appropriate offices at Teachers College.


Kinds of Leaves; procedures for application:

To apply for a medical or personal leave of absence, a student must submit an Application for a Leave of Absence form and deliver it, with the required documentation, to the Office of the Registrar. Individuals who believe they will require any type of leave should contact the Registrar’s Office (212-678-4050 or registrar@tc.edu) as soon as possible for assistance in making arrangements.

Medical: A student who must interrupt study temporarily because of physical or psychological illness or condition or due to pregnancy may request a medical leave. To apply for such a leave, the student must submit a certification from the medical or mental health professional who has been providing treatment to the student (the “Student’s HCP”) that a medical leave is warranted due to the student's health issues. Supporting medical documentation must be dated within 30 days of the request for a medical leave. In certain unusual cases, a compulsory medical leave may be required by the College, if needed to protect the safety, health and well-being of the student or others. Students will be given notice and an opportunity to be heard prior to being placed on a leave.

As a condition of granting a medical leave, the College may require a consultative review of the medical or mental health documentation with a College representative. This consultation may include conversations between the Student’s HCP and the designated College representative and may also require that the student engage in an interview with a designated College representative prior to being granted the leave.

A medical leave will be granted for no longer than one academic term but may be renewed for a subsequent academic term upon supplemental documentation from the Student’s HCP that a continued medical leave is warranted due to the student's health problem. The maximum cumulative length of a medical leave is two years.

To be reinstated after a medical leave, the student must provide the College with written documentation from the Student’s HCP, confirming that the student can safely return to graduate study. As a condition of being reinstated, the College may require the student to provide medical or psychological records from the Student’s HCP and/or participate in an assessment interview with an appropriate College representative or a health care provider chosen by the College. The request for reinstatement must be submitted at least one month prior to the first day of classes of the desired semester of reinstatement, to permit sufficient time for the College to evaluate the request based upon the particular situation of the student and to assure that the safety, health and well-being of the student and others are preserved. Reasonable conditions may be placed on the reinstatement to protect the safety, health and well-being of the student or others.

If the student will need reasonable accommodations to return to his or her studies, the student or the student’s HCP should propose any reasonable accommodations they believe necessary for the student’s successful return. Documentation of the need for and nature of proposed accommodations should be provided to the Office of Access and Services for Individuals with Disabilities, who will work with the student to arrange reasonable accommodations as necessary.

Approved medical leaves will extend the Period of Candidacy for Master of Arts, Master of Science, and Master of Education students, the Period of Eligibility for Doctor of Philosophy students, and the Period of Certification (if applicable) for all doctoral students for the period of the leave.

Military: A student called to active duty may file for a military leave by submitting official military documentation. In accordance with federal law, the term of the leave will depend on the anticipated period of active duty service.

Approved military leaves will extend the Period of Candidacy for Master of Arts, Master of Science, and Master of Education students, the Period of Eligibility for Doctor of Philosophy students, and the Period of Certification (if applicable) for all doctoral students for the period of the leave.

Personal: A student who finds it necessary to interrupt study temporarily but is not eligible for a medical or military leave may seek a personal leave. A personal leave will be granted only for significant professional, personal and family events that effectively preclude continued participation in a degree program. A personal leave is granted for no longer than one academic term but may be renewed for a subsequent academic term upon supplemental documentation that a continued leave is warranted due to the student's significant professional, personal, or family issues. The maximum cumulative length of a personal leave is one year.

Approved personal leaves WILL NOT extend the Period of Candidacy for Master of Arts, Master of Science, and Master of Education students and the Period of Certification (if applicable) for all doctoral students for the period of the leave. Currently, Doctor of Philosophy students are not authorized to take personal leaves.

A request for a personal leave must be submitted on or before the last day of the change of program (add/drop) period for the term for which the leave is effective.

Academic Policies for all Leaves of Absence

Leaves are entered on the student’s official transcript and are noted in the student’s permanent educational records maintained at the College.

College policy requires candidates to complete at least 16 points through Teachers College during the final five-year period prior to the award of the degree to meet “recency requirements.”

A student on leave is not a registered student and does not have the rights and privileges of a registered student.

  • Except as noted below, no tuition or fees are charged for semesters for which a leave of absence has been approved provided that the request is received and approved prior to the start of the semester. A student who begins a leave after paying tuition or fees may seek a refund according to the add/drop schedule for the semester of leave.
  • A student on leave may not work with faculty or formally submit work to the College during the period of leave. However, they may work on courses in which the instructor had issued an approved grade of “incomplete. The one-year grace period for an Incomplete is not changed by a leave of absence.
  • A student on leave is not eligible for a Certificate of Equivalency and may not receive advisement.
  • A student on leave may not apply to graduate during the time period he or she is on leave.
  • A student on leave may not take courses in fulfillment of degree requirements at another institution. If course work is undertaken, it will not apply to any TC degree requirements, except as approved by the Registrar with recommendation from the faculty advisor.
  • According to the College policy on Network and Email Account Provisioning Procedure, students who take a credit course and do not graduate or register again may continue to use their TC Gmail accounts for 3 semesters (12 months) following the end of the semester for which they last registered for a credit course. It is recommended that students on leave continue to check their TC Gmail periodically for important College updates and announcements.
  • The Office of the Registrar will notify academic departments once a leave is processed for a student but will not disclose the reasons for the leave.

Financial Aid and Benefits

Financial Aid.

  • Current Aid. If a student has received any form of federal financial aid (Direct Unsubsidized Stafford Loan, Direct Graduate PLUS Loan, Perkins Loan, Federal Work Study, or Federal TEACH Grant), he or she should contact the Office of Financial Aid (212-678-3714 or financialaid@tc.edu) immediately. The Office of Financial Aid will determine whether the student may be allowed to retain or be required to return any federal aid paid directly to the student. Awarded institutional and endowed scholarships may also be forfeited and/or revoked.

Loan Repayment. Most loan programs do not provide for deferment while a student is on leave. A student going on leave must contact his or her loan service provider for information about possible eligibility for a deferment or forbearance of federal student loans. A student on a military leave may be eligible for a deferment based on qualifying active duty service in the U.S. Armed Forces or National Guard. (See Studentaid.ed.gov/repay-loans/deferment-forbearance).

  • Future Aid. A student wishing to be considered for financial aid for the academic year following the leave should contact the Office of Financial Aid prior to their return. The reinstatement of financial aid including any loan and scholarships will be based on satisfactory academic progress and the approval of the Office of Financial Aid. All domestic students must also complete the FAFSA application by the applicable FAFSA deadline in order to be considered for federal aid.

Columbia Health Fee and the Columbia Student Health Insurance Plan.

  • Rules governing the Health Fee and Student Health Insurance are established by Columbia University. Visit http://www.health.columbia.edu/student-insurance/eligibility for information on insurance eligibility. As a general rule, a student on leave is not eligible for, and thus not charged for, the Columbia Health Fee or Health Insurance Plan. There are limited exceptions, described below. To verify coverage, please contact the Office of Student Affairs - Insurance and Immunizations Records (212-678-3006 or health-immunization@tc.edu).
  • Medical Leave: Upon notification from the Registrar's Office of a student’s medical leave, the Office of Student Affairs will contact the student via their TC e-mail address to determine if they wish to remain enrolled in the student health insurance plan. Students who do not reply within fourteen (14) days will be automatically terminated from the plan, effective at the end of the month in which Student Affairs is notified or at the conclusion of the semester, whichever comes first.
  • Military Leave: A student who enters the armed forces of any country is not covered under Student Health Insurance. A student who begins a military leave after paying for Student Health Insurance may obtain a pro-rata refund of premiums paid for the student and any covered dependent by filing a written request within 90 days of withdrawal from school. The request must be received by Office of Student Affairs - Insurance and Immunizations Records (212-678-3006 or health-immunization@tc.edu) within the 90-day period.
  • Personal Leave: A student granted a personal leave within 30 days of the official start of the semester, may have charges for the Columbia Health Fee and Student Health Insurance Plan, less any claims, reversed and the insurance coverage terminated. A student who begins an approved personal leave of absence after 30 days of the official start of the semester will continue to be covered under the Student Health Insurance Plan for the remainder of the month of withdrawal and will receive a pro rata refund. Students on personal leave are not otherwise eligible for health insurance coverage.
  • Students on leave who do not have another source for health insurance may consult www.healthcare.gov.
  • Any student in Housing should review the section below on Housing, as all students in Housing are required to have proof of insurance.

International Students.

Students on a J-1 or F-1 Visas are subject to special rules and regulations for their enrollment status. Failure to comply with these regulations may lead to termination of status and more long-lasting problems. Before seeking a leave of absence, international students must contact the Office of International Services at Teachers College (212-678-3939) or (tcintl@tc.columbia.edu).

Teachers College Housing.

Students on military or personal leave are not eligible for TC housing.

Under limited circumstances, a student on an approved medical leave may remain in TC housing for no longer than the first term of the approved medical leave. Continued residence requires proof of continued health insurance coverage for the duration of the term. The Office of Residential Services cannot guarantee housing upon return from leave. Contact Residential Services directly for more information (212-678-3235 or housing@tc.columbia.edu).

If a student begins a leave while in housing, the sum paid will be prorated according to the vacate date. The amount of time residing in housing will count towards the maximum housing eligibility.

Responsible Office: Vice Provost for Student Affairs 

Last Updated: April 2018