Accommodation for Parental Responsibilities


The Accommodation for Parental Responsibilities provides a twelve-week period of accommodation to Arts and Sciences Ph.D. and D.M.A. students who become parents. Students in years 1 through 7 who give birth, adopt, or become legal guardians or foster parents, as well as students whose spouse or partner gives birth, can have responsibilities associated with their doctoral program suspended for twelve calendar weeks. Parental accommodation typically begins after the date of birth, adoption, or guardianship, but must begin no later than six months after this date. Students may be granted additional time in the event of illness or disability relating to childbirth under other GSAS policies, such as leaves of absence.

The following provisions apply:

  • Responsibilities that may be suspended include class attendance, exams, other course-related requirements, lab work, or work toward the dissertation.
  • Students in their GSAS multi-year fellowship years (usually years one through four or five in the humanities and social sciences) may suspend responsibilities for their teaching and teaching assistant training for the accommodation period. Students in the natural sciences in their GSAS multi-year fellowship years (usually years one and two) also may suspend responsibilities for their teaching and teaching assistant training for the accommodation period. Natural science students who are on external fellowships receive the accommodation as allowed by the conditions of their funding agency (for example, NSF, NIH, HHMI, etc.). Students requesting an accommodation that would occur while on a dissertation writing fellowship should contact the Office of Student Affairs ( prior to submitting their application.
  • During the period of accommodation, full-time student status is preserved, and the multi-year fellowship stipend (for those students with remaining fellowship), student health insurance, and housing eligibility are retained.
  • Students using the Accommodation for Parental Responsibilities are given extra time toward the completion of the M.A., M.Phil., and Ph.D. or D.M.A. degrees equivalent to the amount of time of the period of accommodationunder this policy. This extension does not apply to housing, which is not controlled by GSAS. Questions pertaining to housing should be directed to University Apartment Housing.
  • The period of accommodation applies to calendar weeks, rather than academic weeks. If an Accommodation for Parental Responsibilities overlaps with an academic break, the break period will still count toward the period of accommodation; however, the student will be granted additional time toward the completion of degree, regardless of when the accommodation occurs.
  • Students on an external fellowship or other non-Columbia funding (e.g., NSF, NIH, Fulbright, SSRC, etc.) should inform the external award agency and comply with any policy and conditions of the funding agency. If external funding is suspended or deferred during the accommodation period, then GSAS may assume funding responsibility. Provide a copy of the funding agency's letter that indicates that funding is suspended or deferred to the GSAS Office of Student Affairs (

New parents may also take an additional semester of accommodation, without funding, for the subsequent semester following the conclusion of the initial accommodation period. Students who elect to take an additional semester of unfunded accommodation will retain eligibility for housing, health coverage, and access to University facilities; however, they will be responsible for paying the Matriculation & Facilities tuition and health fees for the semester. Students will not be eligible to work for their departments or as research assistants during this time.

The Accommodation for Parental Responsibilities does not affect a student's ability to request a leave of absence to begin after the accommodation period has ended.

Students who anticipate requesting an accommodation should meet with their advisor as soon as possible to plan for their time off. Departments may not offer an alternative period that is shorter than that provided by the GSAS policy. Students also should communicate to their advisor their requested revised plan and timeline for completion of the Ph.D. or D.M.A. degree. Students in poor academic standing prior to the accommodation may be required by their department to take additional steps upon their return in order to return to good standing. Though parental accommodation temporarily suspends requirements, students are still expected to fulfill departmental requirements in a timely fashion.

So that GSAS and the department can make appropriate arrangements, students should submit the Accommodation for Parental Responsibilities form (PDF) to the GSAS Office of Student Affairs no later than four months before the start of the accommodation. This requirement allows GSAS and the department to make teaching or research replacement arrangements. The Accommodation for Parental Responsibilities is not granted retroactively.

All questions, forms, and requests for additional information should be directed to the GSAS Office of Student Affairs ( 

Note: Doctoral students who are not in Arts and Sciences programs and who are in years one through seven who give birth, adopt, or who become legal guardians or foster parents, as well as students whose spouse or partner gives birth, may request an extra semester for completion of the M.A., M.Phil., and Ph.D. degrees. This extension does not apply to housing, which is not controlled by GSAS.  Doctoral students in non-Arts and Sciences programs, including Architecture, Preservation and Planning; Business; Communications; Engineering and Applied Science; Nursing; Physicians and Surgeons; Public Health; Social Work; and Teachers College, should contact their Director of Graduate Studies or school associate dean to determine conditions for Accommodation for Parental Responsibilities that may include class attendance, course assignments, exams, teaching and teaching assistant training, and other academic requirements, as well as research and lab work. 

Policy revised December 9, 2016