SIPA’s Parental Accommodations Policy provides a twelve-week period of accommodation to SIPA students who assume parental responsibilities during the course of their academic program. Students 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 program suspended for twelve calendar weeks. Parental accommodation typically begins after the date of birth, adoption, or guardianship, but must commence no later than six months after this date. Students may be granted additional time under other SIPA policies, such as through a leave of absence, in the event of illness or disability relating to childbirth.

General Provisions

The following provisions are applicable to all students:

  • Responsibilities that may be suspended include class attendance, exams, other course-related requirements, lab work, or work toward the dissertation.
  • Students receiving SIPA assistantships may suspend responsibilities for their teaching and research for the accommodation period. Students who are on external fellowships receive the accommodation as allowed by the conditions of their funding agency (for example, Fulbright, the student’s company, foreign government, etc.).
  • Students in the Ph.D. program under Parental Accommodation will remain appointed as a Fellow but will not be required to fulfill the duties of the appointment during the time of accommodation.
  • Full-time student status is preserved during the period of accommodation, and financial aid, student health insurance, housing eligibility, and student visa status are retained.
  • Extra time is provided toward the completion of the MPA, MIA, EMPA, and Ph.D. degrees equivalent to the amount of time of the period of accommodation under this policy, including additional semesters of leave beyond the initial accommodation period. This extension does not apply to housing and is subject to regulations set forth by the Office of University Housing.
  • The period of accommodation applies to calendar weeks, rather than academic weeks. If Parental Accommodation 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.
  • Mothers in need of expressing breastmilk during a period of up to a year after childbirth may request breaks as much as every 2 hours to accommodate the need to pump.
  • Students on an external fellowship or other non-Columbia funding (e.g., Fulbright, the student’s company, foreign government, 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 provide a copy of the funding agency's letter that indicates that funding is suspended or deferred to the SIPA Office of Student Affairs ([email protected]).

Additional Semester of Accommodation

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 tuition and health fees for the semester. Students will not be eligible to work for their departments or as research assistants during this time.

Leaves of Absence

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

Requesting Accommodation

Students who anticipate requesting 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 SIPA policy. Students also should communicate to their advisor their requested revised plan and timeline for completion of the MIA, MPA, EMPA, or Ph.D. degree. Students in poor academic standing prior to the accommodation may be required by their program 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 requirements in a timely fashion. Students should submit the Request for Accommodations for Parental Responsibilities no later than four months before the start of the accommodation so that SIPA can make appropriate arrangements. This requirement allows SIPA to make teaching or research replacement arrangements if needed.


All questions and requests for additional information should be directed to the SIPA Office of Student Affairs ([email protected]). All Ph.D. students should contact the Program Coordinator, Tomara Aldrich ([email protected]).


Adapted from