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. Under appropriate circumstances, students may be permitted to take voluntary leaves of absence.

Leave of Absence

There are three types of Leaves of Absences 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 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.

A Leave may be approved at any time during a student’s period of study, except during the first term of study, 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). If the Leave begins late in the semester and the student has completed work that the instructor considers adequate, the student may instead request a grade of Incomplete and be given a year according to College policy to complete the course. If this option is exercised, the decision to take an Incomplete may not be reversed or changed to a drop at a later time.

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.

This policy will not be used in lieu of disciplinary actions to address violations of College rules, regulations, or policies. 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 coincident with the request for a Voluntary Leave. A student permitted to take a Voluntary Leave while in disciplinary status will return on that same status.

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 this policy in full and consult with appropriate offices.


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 along with the required documentation to the Office of the Registrar. Individuals going on Military 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.

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 treating health care provider 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 is 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 time for a Medical Leave is two years.

To be reinstated after a Medical Leave, the student must provide the College with written certification from the Student’s HCP, confirming that the student is capable of returning 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. The request for reinstatement must be submitted at least one month prior to the first day of classes of the desired term of reinstatement. If the student does not permit sufficient time for the College to evaluate the request, the College may not be able to authorize reinstatement for the desired semester.

If the student will need reasonable accommodations to return to his or her studies, the student’s HCP should propose any reasonable accommodations he or she believes 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 for review and determination of reasonable and appropriate accommodation.

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.

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 time for a Personal Leave is one year.

A request for a Personal Leave must be submitted by the last day of the change of program (add/drop) period for the term.

Academic Policies for all Leaves of Absences

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

The period of candidacy for the degrees of Master of Arts, Master of Science, and Master of Education is limited to five years. Time on an approved medical or military leave (but not a personal leave) is not counted against the five-year period of candidacy. 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.”

For Ed.D. and Ed.D. CTAS students who are certified degree candidates, a Medical or Military Leave extends the period of certification for the period of the approved leave. For Ph.D. students, a Medical or Military Leave extends the period of eligibility. Personal leaves do not extend these periods. 

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, as set out above.
  • A student on leave may not fulfill any degree requirement (including the integrative project or other exam) other than the completion of work in courses for 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.
  • Since a leave of absence is not a registration, a student on leave may not use University or Teachers College facilities or receive financial aid.

Financial Aid and Benefits

Financial Aid.

  • Current Aid. If a student has received federal financial aid through Title IV (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 retain any financial aid. In most cases, when a Leave is approved with 100% reduction of tuition, federal loans must be returned to the lender. The student must return to the College any loan funds that were paid directly to the student.
  • 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 other than loans for the academic year following the leave must notify the Office of Financial Aid by February 1 if he or she wishes to return in the following Autumn semester and by October 1 if he or she wishes to return in the Spring. When the student gives notice of the intent to return, the decision to award financial aid other than loans, including the reinstatement of such aid, will be based on satisfactory academic progress prior to the leave, departmental recommendation, and the approval of the Office of Financial Aid. All domestic students must also complete a FAFSA form by the stated deadlines in order to be considered for financial 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 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 should 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 Visa 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 

Updated: September 2017