Parental Accommodation

The parental accommodation policy aims to support active graduate students of all gender identities and gender expressions in The Graduate School who become new parents (whether by childbirth or adoption) by providing a period of parental accommodation, roughly equivalent to the length of a quarter, during which funding may continue (for funded students) and TGS milestone deadlines will be extended (for all parents). This policy is separate from any student absences that are medically necessary due to pregnancy or childbirth – all such absences are accommodated at Northwestern through The Graduate School’s Leave of Absence policy.

10.1 Eligibility

  • The Graduate Student Parental Accommodation applies to active students of all gender identities and gender expressions in The Graduate School who experience the birth or adoption of a child for whom they have parental responsibilities.
    • Those adopting children over the age of 18 or a spouse’s or partner’s child are not covered by this policy.
    • Those residing in localities where legal adoption is not an option but who are assuming parental responsibilities and otherwise meet the eligibility criteria are covered by this policy.
  • Students are eligible who have not utilized a parental accommodation during the previous 12 months before the requested accommodation start date.
  • All students in The Graduate School, both funded (regardless of funding source) and unfunded, are eligible for the minimal parental accommodation of 12 weeks of leave and a one-year extension of milestones.  Accommodation options vary depending on funding status and source.

10.2 Accommodation Options

Accommodation options vary with the student’s funding status and funding source:

1. Funded graduate students (graduate assistants, research assistants, teaching assistants, trainees, fellows) who receive tuition and stipend from the University at the time of the requested accommodation as well as graduate students who are funded from an external source may request paid leave from their duties for a 12 week accommodation period.  

  • Funding will be provided by The Graduate School for the 12 week accommodation period. Funding will be applied in the quarter closest to the dates of the accommodation.
  • If a student is not receiving funding as of the start date of the parental accommodation, none will be provided by this accommodation.
  • Graduate students who are funded from an external source supported on external fellowships or awards are obliged to inform their funding agency and should consult Financial Aid staff in The Graduate School. 

2. Unfunded graduate students may request unpaid leave from their studies for up to a 12 week accommodation period.

3. Funded or unfunded students may request registration for up to one year in TGS 512 Continuous Enrollment in order to remain a full-time student with access to University services and resources.  Students in this status are enrolled only in TGS 512 (no coursework) and must work with the advisor and Director of Graduate Study (DGS) to devise a modified schedule for making progress toward the degree.  During this time, students would not be eligible to receive funding.  Students may defer funding for the period of time enrolled in TGS 512. Students would assume responsibility for the tuition and fees associated with TGS 512 during this time.

Students may utilize one of these options.  In the case of two eligible graduate student parents, each parent is entitled to choose one option.

Any of the above options will result in the extension of outstanding TGS milestone deadlines (qualifying exam, prospectus, degree deadline) by one year (four quarters). Programs must extend program-specific deadlines by the same length. Students, Directors of Graduate Study (DGSes) and advisors are expected to discuss a timeline for meeting requirements well in advance of the start of the accommodation period.

To ensure that programs have ample time to arrange coverage during the accommodation, students must request the accommodation at least 60 days in advance of the accommodation start date.  In unforeseen circumstances, students must provide as much notice as possible.

10.3 Stipulations

  • Individual students may request one accommodation per childbirth or adoption event.
  • Students who have had a prior parental accommodation within the past 12 months may not request another accommodation, but may request a medical or family leave of absence.
  • Students must begin the accommodation period within the first 30 days of the birth or adoption, or prior to the birth/adoption if medically necessary.
  • The period of accommodation applies to calendar weeks. If a Parental Accommodation overlaps with an academic break, the break period will still count toward the 12-week period of accommodation.
  • Whichever accommodation option students choose, students will be eligible to maintain their student health insurance.  Depending on a student’s funding status, the health insurance subsidy may or may not be applied.  If the health insurance subsidy is not applied, a student will have the option to purchase coverage in fall quarter and may be eligible for a prorated subsidy depending on timing of return and funding status at the time of return. The Graduate School Student Services Staff will be able to assist in this process.
  • Students accommodated under this policy will retain access to the following services:
    • NetID and email
    • WildCARD access and related privileges
    • Northwestern Library access
    • Graduate student housing
    • Health Services and Counseling and Psychological Services
  • Students may wish to utilize a Leave of Absence in addition to (either before or after) a Parental Accommodation.  Students who require medically necessary time away due to pregnancy or childbirth may request a Medical Leave of Absence.  Students who wish to have additional time for the care of a child may request a Family Leave of Absence.  See the Leave of Absence policy for additional information. 
  • Students who are enrolled in coursework at the time of an accommodation may work with instructors to take incomplete (Y or X) grades if a substantial amount of work has already been completed in the course.  Students should arrange a timeline for completion of coursework with the course instructors.  If students anticipate taking a parental accommodation at the start of or early in the quarter, it is recommended that the student not enroll in coursework and instead arrange for enrollment in a research course or other non-classroom based course.  Students who are beyond coursework should enroll based on their funding status and in consultation with their program and The Graduate School Student Services unit.
  • Students who are utilizing a parental accommodation are not expected to fulfill any degree requirements or make significant progress toward degree during the accommodation period. Programs (including instructors and advisors) may not require fulfillment of requirements or progress toward degree completion during the accommodation period.

10.4 Procedures

  • Eligible students will request a Parental Accommodation by submitting a Petition for Absence form via CAESAR, TGS Forms and selecting "Parental Accommodation."
    • This form must be submitted at least 60 days prior to the accommodation start date (or as soon as possible in unforeseen circumstances).
  • Upon submission of the form, The Graduate School will review the request to ensure that the eligibility criteria are met and to identify what financial and academic accommodations will be necessary.
  • TGS will notify the appropriate Director of Graduate Study (DGS) or designate to communicate the approved accommodation period and related accommodations.
  • TGS will update the student’s record to reflect the extension of milestones and make any other necessary changes to the record.
  • At the end of the 12 week period, students will resume their studies.  If additional time away is needed, students must file for the appropriate leave of absence.
    • If students are returning mid-quarter, the appropriate TGS staff will work with program staff to make changes to funding and enrollment as needed.
    • If students wish to return prior to the end of the 12 week period, they must first consult with TGS staff.