Available Leave Categories for Graduate Students
Dependent Care Leave
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 above 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 Study
If a 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A student who does not return from leave as planned or does not file an extension request will be withdrawn from the Institute.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. Unenrolled students, and accordingly, students on leave, have limited access to Caltech's educational activities, programs, and services. They may not attend classes or labs, live in Institute housing*, or access certain student resources, including Student Wellness Services 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 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 on an approved pregnancy leave, bonding leave, and/or dependent care leave are eligible to retain Caltech housing privileges.
The Dean 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.
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.
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 health care 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 medical leave is intended for students to take time away from the Institute to focus on their recovery from various health conditions and be able to resume graduate studies once the health issues have been addressed. Extensions beyond one year may be granted in exceptional circumstances and should follow the same procedures. In order to be placed on leave, the student must petition for a medical leave, and get the recommendation of the Caltech Health and Counseling Center, Option Representative, Advisor, and the permission of the Dean of Graduate Studies. Students on medical leave are eligible for subsidized Caltech health care benefits for up to one year, but are not eligible for a stipend, unless the leave falls under the Pregnancy/Bonding Leave policy.
Students qualifying for leave will receive a letter setting out the purpose of the leave, any specific conditions that they must fulfill while on leave, and the procedure for returning from leave. Conditions that must be met after the return from leave may also be specified.
Students who need to apply for an extension of their leave beyond the terms of the original leave and/or who are requesting special access to campus resources or facilities should complete the petition for Medical Leave Extensions/Exceptions.
If a student is studying or carrying out research or an educational internship at another institution, then they must apply for "Detached Duty" and get the approval of their Advisor and Option Representative.
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 *6 weeks of pay is 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.
Students may take *6 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 *12 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.
*Starting in the 2023-24 academic year, students may take up to 8 weeks of paid bonding leave, and a combined total of up to 14 weeks of paid leave.
Dependent Care Leave
Graduate students may take an unpaid leave for the purpose of full-time dependent care due to COVID-related child care, school closings, and other dependent needs that require students to take a break from their studies. Students planning on taking this leave should first schedule a meeting with one of the Graduate Deans. Under this leave, students are eligible to retain existing benefits, including health and dental. If in Caltech housing, students may remain for up to one term while on dependent care leave. Please note that students with dependent care needs may instead request a reduced course load by submitting an underload petition.
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.
Students on detached duty must register for full-time study, and may receive a stipend or salary. The student's funding must be arranged with the Adviser and funding agency. Students on detached duty are eligible for Caltech health care benefits.
Detached duty is allowed for a fixed duration up to a year at a time and renewable with the concurrence of the Advisor, Option Representative, and the permission of the Dean of Graduate Studies. Students must petition the Office of Graduate Studies, agree to the conditions for detached duty, and submit documentation in order to be eligible for detached duty.
Returning from Leave or Detached Duty
All students returning from leave must contact the Graduate Studies Office, the Registrar and their Option Administrator at least six (6) weeks prior to their anticipated return. In addition, in order to return from medical leave, the student will be required to obtain clearance from Student Wellness Services and the concurrence of the Advisor and the Option Representative in advance of presenting the petition for return for the Dean's approval. Students considering returning from medical leave should start the process well in advance of the expected return date.
Permission to return from leave is at the discretion of the Dean of Graduate Studies.