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Yale University introduced a policy allowing students to take a leave of absence for mental health reasons. Credit: Abhiram Juvvadi

Yale University announced new mental health policies that allow students to take a leave of absence rather than withdraw. 

Previously, students struggling with mental health issues could withdraw from Yale either by choice or by mandated withdrawal. The reformed policy, announced on Jan. 18, gives students the option to request a leave of absence, and they no longer need to apply to re-enroll. 

The change follows student, faculty, and alumni criticism of Yale’s withdrawal policies and their effects on students’ ability to fully address their mental health needs. 

In Nov. 2022, The Washington Post reported that Yale's inadequate counseling services and forced withdrawal policy failed to properly support students in crisis. Students pressured by administrators to withdraw described having 72 hours or less to move off campus. If they wanted to return, the application for reinstatement required a personal statement, letters of support, and proof that they had stayed “constructively occupied” during their time off. 

The threat of forced withdrawal prompted some students to hide their mental health struggles and suicidal thoughts rather than seek help, according to the students interviewed in the article. Later in November, the mental health group Elis for Rachael filed a lawsuit accusing Yale of discriminating against students with mental health issues. 

Yale’s new policies lay out stipulations for postponement, leave of absence, medical leave of absence, and withdrawal. New admits who postpone matriculation for one year will automatically be accepted into the successive class. Current students may request up to four semesters of leaves of absence, during which time they can still work on-campus jobs and access Yale’s academic resources. 

When they are ready to return, they will be automatically reinstated rather than having to reapply. However, Yale can still force involuntary medical leave under specific circumstances. 

Yale also revised its health insurance policy. Previously, students who were on Yale’s health insurance lost coverage for therapy, medication, and other mental health services after withdrawing, The Washington Post reported. Students taking leaves of absence will now be able to retain health insurance. 

Students are also able to take as few as two courses per term without penalty.

“I hope these revised policies ease any concerns about your student status, allowing you (and the people supporting you) to focus on what is important,” Dean of Yale College Pericles Lewis said in an email to students. 

Penn’s mental health policies have not experienced drastic reform since the Task Force on Student Psychological Health and Welfare made recommendations for administrative changes in 2015. 

Penn can place students on an involuntary leave of absence if they decline a voluntary leave of absence, and the process of returning remains difficult.