Graduate students must be continuously enrolled in a full-time status, making satisfactory academic progress, and in residence at the Institute during their graduate studies unless they request and receive permission from the Dean of Graduate Studies by submitting a petition for one of the available leave categories or Detached Duty. This includes the summer term.
If a student fails to register for a full-time load of classes (36 units) by Add Day, they will be placed in "Separated/Inactive" status and will be ineligible to be receive a stipend or use Institute facilities. Key cards will be inactivated and a hold may be placed on their paycheck.
To avoid being placed in "Separated/Inactive" status, the student must petition the Dean through the Graduate Studies Office and resolve their status prior to being reinstated or placed on an approved leave.
Leave of Absence from Graduate Studies
If a graduate student needs to take a leave (sabbatical) from the Institute, they must petition through the Graduate Studies Office.
Leaves are granted for a fixed duration from one term up to a maximum of one year. Leaves may be extended only with the agreement of the Advisor, Option Representative, and the permission of the Dean of Graduate Studies.
Prior to going on leave, students must discuss with their Option and Caltech faculty advisor the conditions of return. Return from leave is conditional upon the Option's and advisor's willingness to accept the student for continuing study, and the availability of funding. When returning from leave, students must provide at least six (6) weeks of notice to the Graduate
Studies Office and contact the Assistant or Associate Graduate Dean to determine whether a meeting is required to discuss resuming a full-time program.
A graduate student who does not return from leave as planned or does not file an extension request will be withdrawn from the Institute.
While on Leave
Caltech considers students on an approved leave to be matriculated; however, students on leave are not currently enrolled and therefore do not enjoy all rights and privileges of enrolled students. Separated students (i.e. unenrolled students), and accordingly, students on leave, have limited access to Caltech's educational activities, programs, and services. Students on leave do not have access to online services including but not limited to REGIS and Canvas. They may not attend classes or labs, live in Institute housing*, or access certain student resources, including Student Wellness Services, CASS, and Residential Life activities, programs, and services during their leave. Career Advising and Experiential Learning (CAEL) is, by default, open to all students who have not been permanently separated from the Institute, regardless of leave or enrollment status, unless otherwise revoked by the Director of CAEL or the dean. For questions regarding the full scope of these limitations, please contact the Graduate Studies Office. [*Students on an approved pregnancy leave or bonding leave are eligible to retain Caltech housing privileges.]
Students may consult with their advisor and otherwise plan for their academic future; however, they will not receive credit for courses unless they are properly enrolled. Students who are on leave are still subject to all Institute policies, including the Institute Sex- and Gender-Based Misconduct Policy. Violations of policy may affect a student's eligibility to re-enroll.
Students who wish to take a personal (non-medical) leave must petition through the Graduate Studies Office. While on a personal leave, students are not eligible for subsidized Caltech healthcare benefits, stipends, or other student benefits. Please refer to the conditions for students on Personal Leave from the Institute. Return from leave is subject to the support of a Caltech professorial faculty advisor and availability of funding.
A student may request a voluntary leave of absence for personal reasons by submitting a personal (non- medical) leave petition to the Graduate Office for approval. International students should consult with the International Student Programs (ISP) office regarding visa implications prior to submitting the leave petition.
The dean may grant a personal leave provided (a) the student is making satisfactory academic progress as determined by the student’s adviser, (b) the leave is for one year or less, although special circumstances can be considered for a longer leave, and (c) the leave extends over a period that includes at least one full term.
A petition to return from a personal leave should be submitted six (6) weeks before the first day of the term for which the student intends to return. Return from a personal leave is subject to the approval of the dean and is subject to the student having an approved adviser and ongoing funding to support the student’s research. If a student does not anticipate having an adviser upon return, they will need to work with the option representative to arrange for funding and a new adviser in advance of the return. Return will only be granted once an adviser and funding are in place.
If a student is unable to complete their coursework or other course of study due to medical reasons, the student may petition for a medical leave of absence by submitting a medical leave petition, endorsed by the director of Student Wellness Services or their designee, to the Graduate Office for approval. International students should consult with the International Student Programs office regarding visa implications prior to submitting the medical leave petition.
Medical leaves are expected to extend over a period that includes at least one full term, although special circumstances may be considered for approval of a shorter leave upon the recommendation of a student’s treatment team.
Students may be required to sign a release of information form authorizing their treatment provider to communicate relevant medical information to representatives within Health and Counseling Services and the Dean’s Office to facilitate evaluation of the need for the leave and to determine appropriate conditions associated with the leave and establishing expectations for return from the leave.
The Institute may impose conditions on return from a medical leave, which may include confirmation from the student’s health care provider that the student is following the recommended course of treatment, the student’s consent for the provider to discuss the student’s condition or progress during the leave with Caltech officials, including representatives of Health and Counseling Services and the Dean’s Office, and an independent evaluation of the student’s readiness to return by a qualified medical professional. Certain conditions of return will be specified at the time of the leave approval.
While on Leave
It is the expectation that a student on medical leave will focus on receiving treatment to manage the condition(s) that precipitated the leave.
Students who have the Caltech-sponsored student health insurance plan will have the opportunity to continue purchasing this insurance while on medical leave.
Students on medical leave will not be able to access Student Wellness Services during their leave; however, they will be able to use the free TimelyCare service (timelycare.com/Caltech) during their leave as long as they have an active access.caltech account.
A student returning from a leave for medical reasons will maintain the same academic standing that they had previously – i.e., if on academic probation, the student will remain on probation upon return from leave.
The duration of a medical leave should be determined primarily by the student's improvement in treatment. In general, however, medical leaves are expected to include at least one full term.
Returning from Leave
The Institute may impose conditions on return from a medical leave, which may include confirmation from the student’s health care provider that the student is following the recommended course of treatment, the student’s consent for the provider to discuss the student’s condition or progress during the leave with Caltech officials, including representatives of Student Wellness Services and the Graduate Office, and an independent evaluation of the student’s readiness to return by a qualified medical professional. Any conditions of return will be specified at the time of the leave approval.
A petition to return from medical leave must be submitted six (6) weeks before the anticipated term for which the student intends to return. The return process includes an interview with the director of Student Wellness Services or their designee and the submission of a completed return from medical leave petition and provider recommendation. Students are expected to sign a release of information form authorizing their treatment providers to communicate with Caltech, including representatives of Student Wellness Services and the Graduate Office to determine readiness to return and any recommendations for reasonable accommodations. Return from a medical leave of absence is subject to the final approval of the dean. If the student is permitted to return from the leave, any conditions of return will be communicated to the student in writing.
It is the expectation that a student on medical leave will focus on receiving treatment to manage the condition(s) that precipitated the leave.
A student returning from a leave for medical reasons will maintain the same academic standing that they had prior to the leave and will be subject to the same academic requirements for maintaining academic progress. Additional information and resources regarding medical leave, including financial and transcript implications, can be found at gradoffice.caltech.edu/admissions/policies/LeavePolicy.
Pregnancy and Bonding Leave
Students who are unable to complete their coursework or other course of study for a period of time due to a pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions are eligible for a pregnancy leave of absence. Students who are pregnant or who have recently given birth are also eligible for reasonable accommodations.
Students are not required to take a leave of absence, withdraw, or limit their graduate studies because of pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. However, students who are disabled due to pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions are eligible to take a pregnancy leave of absence. The Institute provides up to 6 weeks of pay to students during a pregnancy leave of absence; an additional 8 weeks of pay are available through family bonding leave (see following section).
A pregnant student who wishes to take a pregnancy leave should submit a pregnancy leave petition to the Graduate Office. Medical documentation from the student's treating health care provider may be required.
A student who chooses to take a leave of absence because they are pregnant or have recently given birth shall be allowed an additional period commensurate with the length of the leave, but not to exceed 12 additional months, to prepare for and take preliminary and qualifying examinations and an equal extension of time toward the normative time to degree while in candidacy for a graduate degree, unless a longer extension is medically necessary.
An enrolled student in good standing who chooses to take a leave of absence because they are pregnant or have recently given birth shall return to their program in good academic standing following an approved leave period up to one academic year, subject to the administrative requirements described above, unless there is a medical reason for a longer leave, in which case standing in the graduate program shall be maintained during that period of the leave.
The Institute also provides reasonable accommodations to pregnant students consistent with federal and state law. Reasonable accommodations may include allowing pregnant students to maintain a safe distance from hazardous substances, allowing them to make up tests and assignments that are missed for pregnancy-related reasons or excusing of absences that are medically necessary. If in Caltech housing, students may remain while on pregnancy leave.
Graduate students may take up to 8 weeks of family bonding leave with pay. An enrolled student in good academic standing who chooses to take a leave of absence because of the recent birth or adoption of his or her child may request a bonding leave by submitting a bonding leave petition to the Graduate Office for approval. Bonding leave is in addition to pregnancy leave, providing eligible students with a combined total of up to 14 weeks of paid leave. Students returning from an approved bonding leave shall return to his or her program in good academic standing following the leave, subject to the administrative requirements described above. If in Caltech housing, students may remain while on bonding leave.
The dean or designee may determine that it is necessary to place a student on an involuntary leave in a variety of circumstances, including when a student demonstrates behavior that poses a threat to health or safety, causes significant disruption to the Caltech community, for the personal safety or welfare of the student involved, as an interim measure, or as a result of a disciplinary action.
The dean may impose an involuntary leave in appropriate circumstances, such as where a student’s behavior: (1) has, or threatens to, cause significant property damage; (2) significantly disrupts the Caltech community; (3) presents a substantial risk of harm to self or others; (4) indicates the student is unable or unwilling to carry out self-care obligations; or (5) violates a Caltech policy or the honor system.
An involuntary leave also may be imposed when the student requires a level of care from the Institute community that exceeds the reasonable accommodations, resources and staffing that the Institute can reasonably be expected to provide for the student’s well-being.
Review and Decision Process
If the conduct has been the subject of an investigation or review under an Institute process or procedure, the Dean will consider the findings and conclusions reached in that process. In other circumstances described above, in making an informed decision to place a student on involuntary leave, the Dean will conduct an individualized assessment and consider relevant information including information provided in a timely manner by the student. The Dean may consult with other Institute personnel, including but not limited to Security and Residential Life personnel, faculty, staff and other individuals or departments. If appropriate and feasible, the dean may seek cooperation and involvement of parents or guardians of the student. Medical information, including medical information provided in a timely manner by the student, may be considered if the behavior is associated with a physical or mental condition. In appropriate cases, the Dean may consult with the executive director of Student Wellness Services and/or require a physical or mental evaluation from a health professional if the Dean believes such an evaluation is necessary in order to make an informed decision. Students are expected, if necessary, to sign a release of information to facilitate discussions between Caltech and the health professional conducting the evaluation. The Dean will also consider whether relevant risk factors can be eliminated or reduced to an acceptable level through reasonable accommodation.
The student will be advised in writing of the decision to impose an involuntary leave. The Dean may stipulate conditions that must be met before the student may return. An involuntary leave may be a permanent separation from the Institute (i.e. expulsion); for a specific duration; or until certain conditions have been met. If the involuntary leave is not a permanent separation, the student will be advised of the length of the leave and/or any conditions for return.
If the dean determines that a student's continued presence is likely to pose a substantial risk to the safety and well-being of the student or others, the dean may place the student on an emergency interim leave before a final determination is made. The dean will make reasonable attempts to meet with the student and consider relevant information, including in appropriate cases medical information provided by the student, before deciding on an emergency interim leave. An emergency interim leave will remain in effect until a final decision has been made.
Return from Leave
A student on involuntary leave will not be allowed to return until the Dean makes a fact-specific assessment of the circumstances, considers relevant risk factors, and concludes that the student does not pose a significant disruption to the functioning of the Institute community and/or does not pose a substantial risk to the health and safety of the student or others. The Dean will consider relevant information, including information provided by the student. In cases where a student has a physical or mental condition associated with the behavior triggering the leave, the Dean will also consider whether the relevant risks can be eliminated by a reasonable accommodation. The student will be notified in writing if the Dean determines that the student will not be permitted to return from a leave or will be permanently separated from the Institute.
A decision by the Dean to place a student on involuntary leave may be appealed in writing within ten days to the Vice President for Student Affairs (or designee). If the leave is imposed as a sanction resulting from a finding of responsibility under an Institute process, any applicable limitations on grounds for appeal will apply.