Medical leave policy

Medical leaves for graduate students are initiated through the Office of Graduate Education (OGE), with input from the academic department, student’s clinician, and MIT Medical. In addition, the International Students Office (ISO) will be informed of all medical leaves initiated for international students. The criteria and process for both voluntary and involuntary medical leaves are detailed below.

Duration of leave

Medical leave shall be for a minimum of one semester and a maximum of twelve months, normally comprising two semesters plus one summer.

Under exceptional circumstances, a student may file an application for approval for one additional semester of leave for medical reasons. Students must provide documentation of active engagement in a treatment program and documentation that they are likely to be sufficiently stabilized within an additional semester to return to full participation in campus life. Extensions of medical leave will not be granted to prolong treatment of a chronic physical or mental health condition that would likely prohibit a student from returning to full participation in required academic endeavors.

Approximately 60 days before the expiration of a medical leave, the student must request either approval to return or an extension of the medical leave (link to procedure page). If neither of these occurs, the student will be considered permanently withdrawn from the Institute and will be required to reapply in order to continue studies.

All appeals of OGE medical leave decisions go to the dean for graduate education, who may consult appropriate programs and advisors and review the record in considering the appeal.

  • International students: International students should consult the ISO early in the application process, to obtain current regulatory information. Medical leaves for international students need to be updated each term, with a new letter from their doctor or medical clinician in the file. International students who will receive treatment in the US are eligible to remain on medical leave status for a maximum of twelve months for the duration of their academic program. If the condition persists, the position of the US federal government is that the student must return to the home country, or country of legal residence. When the medical condition improves sufficiently so that the student can resume full time study, new documents may be needed to re-enter the US.

Returning from a leave

The student’s health and ability to resume full-time academic responsibilities are central to determining whether the student can return from a medical leave. Up-to-date medical documentation must accompany requests to return from a medical leave. Please see the following page for information regarding returning to regular student status.  The student is expected to actively engage in a recovery or treatment program, taking steps consistent with the medical condition associated with the leave. The student may be advised to seek treatment through clinicians or agencies outside of MIT Medical, with an MIT clinician serving as an in-house consultant to periodically assess the student’s progress as clinically appropriate. In such cases, the follow-through on treatment recommendations will be considered along with the student’s request to return.

Special conditions for students on medical leave

A student on approved medical leave is no longer registered at the Institute and is therefore subject to certain restrictions. These restrictions involve access to funding and campus facilities, including athletic facilities and housing. In addition, there are visa and immigration restrictions for international students. Below is a brief summary of the key restrictions for a student on a medical leave.

  • Housing: The student is not allowed to reside in campus housing while on medical leave. Change of address must be reported through MIT’s Student Information System (WEBSIS).
  • Student Financial Services: A student on an approved medical leave is no longer registered for classes and no longer eligible to receive funding from or through MIT, including research assistantships or teaching assistantships. Under most circumstances, external fellowship funding is also suspended. The student is encouraged to contact the fellowship administrator for applicable policy, since some fellowships pay stipends directly to students. Once Student Financial Services (SFS) receives notification from the OGE that a medical leave has been granted, federal loans for the term are prorated to the effective date of the leave. A student who drops below half-time is expected to make payments toward their federal student loans, unless a deferral is granted. The six-month grace period, which typically begins once a student has graduated, will begin on the effective date of the leave. It is important to note that for federal loan purposes, all students are permitted only one six-month grace period, before being expected to make payments on their loans. A student on leave for more than six months will be required to make payments on their loans; otherwise they will be found in default. A student who returns to their academic program following a medical leave of more than six months will be required to begin repayment of loans immediately upon graduation. The student is urged to contact an SFS representative to request an exit interview with a student loan officer. Help is available in SFS to request repayment deferrals and to avoid possible delinquency notices caused by a medical leave.
  • Student medical insurance: A student on medical leave may retain coverage for the duration of the leave, up to two consecutive semesters and a summer term; the student will be responsible for premium payments billed in monthly installments. Each student is billed for the MIT Student Extended Insurance Plan, plus the basic MIT student health plan fee (normally included in tuition for registered students). A student on medical leave is encouraged to contact the MIT Medical Health Plans Manager with questions or concerns. A student who has previously waived the extended insurance plan may not enroll at the time of leave. A student who has been approved for an extension of medical leave beyond two terms may also request an extension of their health insurance coverage. If the extension is granted, the student will retain responsibility for premium payments.  International students should discuss their medical coverage with the ISO and the Health Plans Office.
  • Athena access: Athena accounts for students on medical leave are marked for deactivation. The Athena Accounts Office does a general account deactivation once a year in January based on lists of registered students supplied by the Registrar. Those students whose accounts are marked for deactivation are first notified via an e-mail from Athena Accounts in November requesting that the student contact them directly. A follow-up message is sent in January. If a student asks not to have their account deactivated, the student’s advisor may sponsor a student as their guest. This status can be maintained as long as the advisor is willing to be listed as the student’s sponsor. Sponsors are emailed in early fall, so that the deactivation lists for the academic year can be prepared. Students who encounter difficulty in maintaining their Athena account while on medical leave should contact a graduate dean who handles “Advising and Personal Support” in the OGE.

Involuntary medical leave

A student will be placed on involuntary medical leave when a decision is made by OGE in concert with MIT Medical that, due to mental or physical health reasons:

  • A student poses a significant risk to the health or safety of self or others; and/or
  • It is established that a student is unable to participate in campus life, including but not limited to, an inability to complete or make satisfactory progress towards academic requirements.

In addition, a student may be placed on involuntarily leave for medical reasons if a student does not cooperate with efforts deemed necessary by the Institute to determine if the student poses a significant risk to the health or safety of self or others.

When possible and appropriate, efforts will be made to allow a student to voluntarily initiate a leave under appropriate procedures before placing a student on involuntary leave status.

The decision to place a student on involuntary leave status will be provided in writing to the student. Written decisions will include:

  • an explanation of the reasons for placing the student on involuntary leave status,
  • the information used to make the decision,
  • the details of the leave, and
  • the conditions for return.

Process for appeal of decision

A student who is placed on involuntary medical leave may write to the Chancellor and seek a review of the decision. The decision is in effect despite a request for review of the decision. To be timely, the Chancellor must receive any such request for review within five working days of the decision, unless the Chancellor determines to accept a late review request due to exceptional circumstances. Such request should be made in writing and include detailed support for the request to overturn or modify the decision. The Chancellor will review the student’s appeal and may affirm, overturn or modify the decision within ten working days from the date of receipt of request for review or an agreed extended time. The Chancellor can meet with the student if needed or can consult with anyone that he or she determines is reasonable in order to review the appeal. The Chancellor’s decision will be communicated to the student in writing and shall be considered final.