Graduate Student Parent Policy

We recognize that the decision to begin a family often coincides with the years during which students are engaged full-time in graduate school. By establishing general principles and minimum modifications for students who become parents during their graduate studies, this policy addresses the conflicts and issues that may arise as two important milestones—an advanced degree and parenthood—come into play simultaneously.

In addition to the academic options outlined below, the University supports a range of student parent initiatives, including the Family Resource Center, which hosts a drop-in play space and a wide variety of classes, publishes the UChicago Student Parent Resource Guide, advises student parent organizations, and maintains a list of spaces convenient for nursing mothers. Students are reminded that in accordance with Illinois state law, mothers may breastfeed in any location, public or private, where they are otherwise authorized to be.

The graduate student parent policy includes three academic support options described below:

  1. Parental Relief Academic Modification,
  2. Parental Relief Leave of Absence, and
  3. Milestone Extensions

As students plan for the birth or arrival of a child, they are encouraged to consider all three options in conversation with their advisors, departmental chairs, and area Deans of Students. Faculty must be realistic about the rate of progress of students experiencing pregnancy and childbirth or taking care of a new child. Together, students and their advisors should arrange a timeline for meeting requirements and make appropriate accommodations for particular circumstances. The success of this graduate student parent policy depends upon full, open, and timely communication and cooperation among the student, the advisor, department chair, and the area Dean of Students.

The ultimate goal of this policy is to allow students the chance to adjust to the extra demands of pregnancy and parenting, while maintaining academic progress. Note that pregnant students choosing academic modification or leave of absence will need to provide verification from a medical provider regarding the need for the modification or leave.

Parental Relief Academic Modification

During parental relief academic modification, in which a normally full-time student maintains their full-time status, students will continue to enjoy the University benefits associated with full-time student status, including access to University housing and Student Health and Counseling Services, and if they would otherwise be eligible for them, stipends and health insurance coverage. Students will remain eligible for Title IV federal aid, including Federal Stafford or GradPLUS Loans, and there should be no impact on international students’ visa status.

Pregnant students, for whom it is medically necessary, may request academic modification for up to the equivalent of one quarter. In addition to taking academic modification during pregnancy, students may also choose academic modification for up to the equivalent of one quarter to care for a new child.

For students who matriculated prior to summer 2016, a quarter of academic modification does not extend a master's or professional student's eligibility for full-time status beyond the maximum allowed period of enrollment for their program nor a doctoral student's eligibility for full-time student status beyond the total of twelve calendar years from entry in the Ph.D. program (or ten years for students in the School of Social Service Administration). For students who matriculated prior to summer 2016, a quarter of academic modification does not stop the clock on departmental, program, and University academic milestones and requirements. (For milestone extensions, see the last section of this policy.) Stipend and health insurance received during a quarter of academic modification count toward the total fellowship award for a student and do not extend the total number of quarters of support beyond a student’s original fellowship agreement.

The details of particular students’ academic modifications should be arranged between students and their departments in consultation with an area Dean of Students. Some examples of academic modification are described below.

Students who are in the early stages of their programs may continue to take classes with academic modification that includes adjustments to course load and deadlines for course assignments, papers, examinations, and other course requirements. In consultation with their area Dean of Students, students in the early stages of their programs may also be permitted not to take classes during their quarter of parental relief and instead embark on an individualized study plan that will allow them to continue progress toward their degree. If students enroll in classes or seminars during their period of academic modification, class and seminar attendance and participation are expected to the extent permitted by the health of the parent and child.

Students with teaching duties are urged to initiate conversations with their department or program chairs and the area Dean of Students well in advance to arrange for appropriate teaching modifications or to teach in a quarter other than that of the birth or care of the new child.

Students receiving tuition or stipends dependent upon laboratory and field research are urged to initiate conversations with their department chairs, lab supervisors, and the area Dean of Students well in advance to adjust laboratory and research schedules.

Students in programs where support is primarily from sources external to the University must follow the rules specified by the granting agencies for absences and leaves. Early conversations with departments and area Deans of Students are especially important so the University can coordinate as appropriate with granting institutions regarding certain research grant conditions.

Further modifications and considerations may be necessary throughout a student's pregnancy or while a student is nursing (for students who may be exposed to toxic chemicals or who must travel for field research). Advisors, area Deans of Students, and students are urged to work together to provide a safe learning environment.

Leaves of Absence for Parental Relief

In lieu of taking Parental Relief Academic Modification quarter(s) described above, pregnant graduate students in degree-granting programs of study may choose to take a one-quarter leave of absence if medically necessary. In addition to leave taken during pregnancy, students who become parents during their graduate studies may choose to take another one-quarter leave of absence to care for a new child. Students who are supported by fellowships external to the University must follow the rules specified by the granting agency for absences and leaves.

Students who take a Parental Relief Leave of Absence may choose to continue to enjoy the University benefits associated with full-time student status, including access to University housing and Student Health Service, and if they would otherwise be eligible for them, stipends and health insurance coverage. Students who accept UChicago stipend and health insurance during a Parental Relief Leave of Absence are expected to devote themselves to the purpose of the leave, parenting, and as such may not undertake full-time employment or study elsewhere. Before deciding to request a leave of absence, students are encouraged to consult with their financial aid office because eligibility for Title IV federal aid, including Federal Stafford and GradPLUS loans may be affected. Taking a leave may also have implications for a student’s immigration status, and international students considering a leave should work with their area Dean of Students and with the Office of International Affairs to explore options and to make arrangements so that the leave can be as minimally disruptive as possible.

As with the quarters of academic modification, for students who matriculated prior to summer 2016, a Parental Relief Leave of Absence does not extend a doctoral student's eligibility for full-time student status beyond the total of twelve calendar years from entry in the Ph.D. program (or ten years for students in the School of Social Service Administration). The leave of absence does, however, stop the clock on departmental, program, and University academic milestones and requirements for master’s, professional, and doctoral students; the clock resumes when the student returns to full-time status. Stipend and health insurance received during a leave of absence count toward the total fellowship award for a student and do not extend the total number of quarters of support beyond a student’s original fellowship agreement. 

Milestone Extensions

Whether or not students receive academic modification or take a Parental Relief Leave of Absence, students in degree-granting graduate programs may request a one-quarter extension for department, program, and university milestones and requirements due to pregnancy or the demands of parenting a new child. For example, if a doctoral student’s department requires petition to candidacy by the end of the fourth year, the student parent may request one additional quarter to prepare for the petition to candidacy.

As with academic modification and leave of absence, for students who matriculated prior to summer 2016, milestone extensions do not extend a master's or professional student's eligibility for full-time status beyond the maximum allowed period of enrollment for their program nor a doctoral student's eligibility for full-time student status beyond the total of twelve calendar years from entry in the Ph.D. program (or ten years for students in the School of Social Service Administration).