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Continuous Enrollment Policy

A Continuous Enrollment Policy for students in Rackham Ph.D. programs became effective Fall Term 2010.  The policy requires that all doctoral students will register each Fall and Winter semester until they have completed their degree, unless they are taking an official leave of absence.   Spring/Summer registration is required only for students who are taking or auditing courses, taking preliminary examinations, or defending the dissertation; the same activities that require a spring/summer registration under current practice.

The College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LSA) supported this change in enrollment policy because of the many benefits it provides to students, including keeping students engaged with faculty advisors and dissertation committees, increasing the number of doctoral degree completions, and offering year-round access to services for graduate students.

LSA Fellowship Program to Cover Tuition Costs

The College created a new financial aid program to award tuition-only fellowships that will be used to cover the tuition costs at UM associated with the increased terms of registration for students in our programs--including students in Rackham Interdepartmental Programs (IDP’s)  and Student Initiated Degree Programs (SIDP’s or IIDP’s ) where an LSA program is one of the participating units.  Students in IDPs and IIDPs will be funded in proportion to their affiliation with LSA.  The allocation of fellowships to each graduate program will be sufficient to provide tuition-only fellowships to candidates requiring them, since the allocation is based on the historical pattern of registration of students in each program.  Programs will be responsible for awarding the tuition fellowships to candidates in a manner consistent with need and their historical practices, and for coordinating with partner units for the support of students in an IDP or IIDP.

Graduate programs and students are strongly encouraged to pursue all employment and fellowship opportunities that would provide students with a stipend and health insurance benefits along with tuition coverage, before determining that a student should be awarded an LSA tuition fellowship.  Students should be making satisfactory progress toward degree to be eligible for a tuition-only fellowship.

Funding for the tuition-only fellowships is held centrally by the College and managed in a manner similar to tuition support for GSIs.  Tuition-only fellowships do not count toward the LSA Ten-Term Rule.

Departments should keep in mind the following when allocating tuition-only fellowships to students:

  • Funds are intended to be used when a student is pursuing work on the dissertation, such as research and/or writing and typical funding sources are not available (student is not in Ann Arbor so cannot teach or do research, is not in a fellowship year, etc.).  These are students who traditionally did not register prior to the policy's effective date of Fall 2010.
  • Tuition-only fellowships can only be used by candidates.  Students must be candidates at the beginning of the semester in which they use a tuition-only fellowship.
  • Fellowships cannot be used during semesters when candidates hold a GSI/GSSA/GSRA appointment.  The University and the UM/GEO Contract specify that students in these employment categories be registered for at least 6 credit hours while they hold these appointments, and the associated tuition waiver pays for the student's tuition.
  • Students may not use them in Spring, Spring/Summer, or Summer term because registration is not required during the term or half-terms according to the policy.
  • Candidates may not use a tuition-only fellowship in the term a candidate defends the dissertation, as students have historically been required by Rackham to register during the semester in which they defend the dissertation.
  • During semesters when candidates enroll in 995 and take more than the free course(s) allowed, the tuition-only fellowships will pay only for the 995 registration and not the augmented tuition that results from taking additional courses.
  • Students on approved leaves of absence or on extramural study are not eligible for tuition-only fellowships.
  • Tuition-only fellowships do not include registration fees.  Departments wishing to pay these fees on behalf of students should use a different program or departmental account.
  • Departments should not combine a stipend from any source (general fund or otherwise) when allocating a tuition-only fellowship.
  • GradCare and dental insurance may be given along with a tuition-only fellowship.  Continuation of benefits may also occur over the Spring/Summer if a student has a Winter term allocation.

Tuition-only Fellowships for Students Longer Than 7 Years in Program

The College of LSA is interested in assisting students with the completion of degree requirements and recognizes that there are times when delays occur in the graduate education process. By mapping out a financial plan, assuring a state-of-the-art degree, and developing a timeline of study, the student can have a more focused path during the final stages of degree completion.

When a student has spent more than seven years in their degree program, LSA departments should provide information to the LSA Dean’s Office with the information below when planning to allocate a tuition-only fellowship to the student.  Please send requests via email to Paula Hathaway (

Content of the Request:

  1. A timeline must be included.
  2. A funding plan for the remainder of the student's time in the program must be included.
  3. An additional memo from the department chair supporting this request and stating that the degree will still be "state-of-the-art" is also required.

LSA Frequently Asked Questions About Continuous Enrollment

Q: How will LSA determine the number of tuition‐only fellowships to allocate to each graduate program in the College?

A: This link opens the report that provides the average number of unregistered terms (as candidates) by department or program. This is the basis for LSA’s tuition fellowship allocation to departments and programs.

Q: Do students have to register in the summer to be considered “continuously enrolled”?

A: No, continuous enrollment only pertains to PhD students in the Fall and Winter semesters.

Q: What if a student pays tuition at another institution (in the US or abroad)? Does that count toward continuous enrollment?

A: Yes. This is considered extra‐mural study and counts as a registration status.

Q: What if we have large fluctuations in admissions? How will that impact our future tuition fellowships allocations?

A: Departments should manage this as they would now; taking into account the budgetary impacts of enrolling a larger or smaller class.

Q: There is a concern that the Continuous Enrollment policy works against women who choose to take time away from their degree in order to raise children. Students will return to their degree in most cases. How will the policy impact women who want to raise a family?

A: The Continuous Enrollment Policy, by itself, should not affect students’ ability to suspend study in order to have or to care for children. We have worked carefully to develop a leave policy that will expand the options available to Ph.D. students with family responsibilities. Rackham has a Parental Accommodation Policy which allows a period of reduced academic expectations and modifications of deadlines in a term when a graduate student has or adopts a child. In the future, this policy remains in effect and can be used alone or in combination with leaves of absence.

Leaves of absence will be available for medical reasons and for dependent care reasons, in addition to other reasons. During a leave, students suspend active participation in their graduate programs until they are able to return to active study. A leave of absence for dependent care reasons would be available more than once, and graduate students who desire to take a leave when they have children could do so with each new child.

However, there are other options that a program and student should consider along with the possibility of leave. In many cases, a program can make accommodations that allow graduate students with family responsibilities to continue to stay registered and make progress on their degrees while achieving an appropriate balance between their academic and family lives. Rackham encourages faculty advisors and programs to set expectations for accomplishments and milestones flexibly and in light of a graduate student’s particular circumstances. We believe that a continuous connection—cemented by official registered student status—to the program, faculty mentors, and the intellectual community of the program makes it more likely that students will complete their degrees. Some students with responsibilities beyond their studies—whether those responsibilities are family dependents or something other—may progress more slowly than students who are able to focus their entire energies on their academic work. Slow, steady progress that results in the student’s attainment of the Ph.D. is perfectly acceptable.

Q: Can Rackham provide some guidance on what it means to be making “progress towards degree”? Is that up to Rackham or up to the program?

A: The evaluation of whether a student is making adequate progress towards degree is a judgment that only the program’s faculty can make. Rackham, of course, does set time limits for milestones but when a program recommends an extension of those limits with good reason, Rackham extends.

Any information and frequently asked questions regarding the Continuous Enrollment Policy and Continuous Enrollment Funding Plan can be found above. The questions have been collected from LSA departments and if you have any further questions for LSA about Continuous enrollment, please submit them to Paula Hathaway via email.