Health Leave of Absence
Cornell students may apply (instructions and forms below) for a voluntary leave of absence (a separation of the student from the university) for health reasons. A Health Leave of Absence (HLOA) is recommended when a student's health condition is judged to significantly impair his or her ability to function successfully or safely as a student. HLOAs are coordinated through Gannett Health Services.
It is expected that the time a student takes away from the university for the HLOA is used for treatment and recovery. Gannett provides each student with specific expectations for treatment while away on leave. Compliance with the treatment expectations is a primary factor in Gannett's eventual decision of whether to clear a student to return to Cornell.
Not all situations are similar. The amount of time students take for a HLOA will vary depending on circumstances (such as treatment recommendations, and time needed to assure recovery of health and re-establish the ability to sustain health). A Gannett clinician or counselor will provide treatment recommendations as part of the HLOA agreement.
Potential advantages of a Health Leave over a Personal Leave of Absence
- An HLOA usually qualifies a student for benefits under any tuition reimbursement plan they may have.
- Students who think they may need to take an HLOA during the course of a coming semester may wish to consider purchasing tuition reimbursement insurance before the semester begins.
- Students who are enrolled in the Student Health Plan (SHP) may be able to purchase the insurance for an additional academic year while on an HLOA.
- For international students, an HLOA may provide a way to remain in the US while maintaining legal status.
- An HLOA sometimes qualifies a student to initiate a leave of absence later in the semester than might normally be permitted for a personal leave.
- The grades a student received during the semester for which the leave was initially granted are usually not calculated in the student's GPA, and sometimes an HLOA eliminates a semester's courses completely from the student's transcript.
College/School Policies and Protocols
In order to obtain an HLOA and return from one, a student must obtain a health leave of absence recommendation from Gannett and then an administrative approval from the advising office of the student's college or school. For graduate students, this approval must be given by the dean of the Graduate School. Schools, colleges, and graduate fields have separate and often differing policies regarding leaves of absence, including specific restrictions on or requirements for the amount of time a student is to be away on leave and distinct requirements or criteria for re-enrollment following a leave of absence. Students who are considering a HLOA must contact their advising office (not their faculty advisor) to find out the specific conditions or restrictions will apply to them in conjunction with a HLOA.
How to initiate a Health Leave of Absence
Request an evaluation by a counseling or medical provider for the purpose of pursuing an HLOA*.
- If you are already receiving care at Gannett, ask your current CAPS or medical provider, and he or she will work with you to process your request.
- If you are uncertain who your current CAPS or medical provider is, or have questions about the process, email the coordinator of the HLOA committee who will provide a written response within two business days: email@example.com.
*If you are currently not in the Ithaca area and unable to meet with a Gannett provider for an evaluation, call us and ask to speak with a nurse manager to discuss your options.
Deadlines for requesting an HLOA
- To have an HLOA processed for the current semester, students must have completed an evaluation and all of the necessary paperwork with a Gannett clinician no later than the last day of classes (not study or exam period) of this semester.
- Requests for HLOA made after this deadline will only be considered for the following semester.
- Gannett does not make HLOA recommendations retroactively (that is, for a semester prior to the current one).
- Gannett does not make HLOA recommendations based solely on evaluations done by non-Gannett clinicians. An evaluation with a Gannett clinician is required.
How to return to Cornell from a Health Leave of Absence
Return process checklist
Students wishing to return from an HLOA should carefully follow each step of the Return Process Checklist (pdf).
Deadlines for returning from an HLOA
DEADLINE #1: Students must notify Gannett in writing of their wish to return to Cornell.
- for fall semester return: no later than June 1
- for spring semester return: no later than November 1
- for summer session return: no later than April 1
DEADLINE #2: Students must then submit to Gannett all required documentation of treatment obtained during their HLOA:
- for fall semester return: no later than July 1
- for spring semester return: no later than December 1
- for summer session return: no later than May 1
If a student misses either of these deadlines, their return from HLOA will be postponed until a later semester.
Decision and appeal process
All decisions regarding return from a HLOA are made by an interdisciplinary committee of Gannett clinicians. Student requests to return are denied only when the committee is unanimous in its opinion that return is not advisable at this time. To appeal the decision of the committee, students must email Greg Eells, PhD, Associate Director of Gannett Health Services. If this appeal is denied the student must wait until the following semester to apply again to return from leave.
Help from other Cornell offices
Financial implications: Students must contact their college or school to determine the financial implications of taking a HLOA. Undergraduates who have financial aid must contact the Office of Financial Aid. The University Bursar provides information regarding eligibility for tuition reimbursement.
International students: International students must contact the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) to determine the impact of a leave on their visa status.
Health insurance: Students considering a HLOA must review their health insurance coverage. Students enrolled in Cornell's Student Health Plan (SHP) who take a HLOA are automatically covered for the remainder of the plan year; they also may be eligible to purchase a one-time, one-year extension of SHP insurance. The Cornell University Office of Student Health Benefits can provide detailed guidance. Students with other health insurance plans should contact the plan provider to clarify coverage (see number on the insurance card). In some cases, students may need to apply for continuation of coverage (COBRA); enrollment in COBRA is time sensitive.
Students with questions or concerns related to other aspects of their Cornell experience should contact the appropriate office:
- On-campus housing: Housing and Dining Contracts Office
- Meal plan: Housing and Dining Contracts Office
- Tuition reimbursement insurance: University Bursar Services
- Academic accommodations for a health condition, contact Student Disability Services
- To verify your status as either enrolled or on leave: Office of the University Registrar
Links to HLOA forms and handouts for students
- Request for a Voluntary Leave of Absence for Health Reasons (pdf)
- Authorization for Release of Health Records (pdf)
- Medical Care Provider Report for Medical Concerns (pdf)
- Mental Health Care Provider Report (pdf)