Continuous Enrollment

1. What is Continuous Enrollment?

The Rackham Graduate School continuous enrollment policy for all Ph.D. students at the University of Michigan went into effect in Fall Term 2010. As this is an academic policy and not an employment policy, the University considers this issue a “permissive subject of bargaining”, in effect preventing GEO from bargaining over this issue in contract negotiations unless the University were to “permit it”, as it is not a “mandatory subject of bargaining”, such as wages or benefits. If you are interested in persuading the University to bargain over the continuous enrollment policy, please contact GEO’s Contract Committee Chair at

According to the Rackham website, “Once admitted to a Ph.D. program, students will register every fall and winter term until their degree is awarded, unless they are taking an official leave of absence. Requirements for registration in the summer will not change. Students will register in spring or summer terms only when they elect courses, take preliminary examinations, or defend their dissertations.”

Regarding funding, “Each school and college has developed a plan to provide tuition support for all Ph.D. students who are making satisfactory academic progress but would not have registered under current policies and practices. The plans do not replace or alter existing commitments to students from departments, graduate programs, schools or colleges for financial support that includes tuition, stipend, and benefits. The school and college plans for tuition fellowships provide an additional layer of support that is designed to protect current students from new financial burdens as a result of the policy.”

Regarding detached study and leaves of absence, “With the Continuous Enrollment Policy students will be registered regardless of their location. Registration status confirms students’ eligibility for the full array of University services and resources, many of which remain fully available to students outside of the Ann Arbor area due to advances in technology and travel convenience. Sometimes life events or medical reasons interrupt a student’s progress for a period of time. The policy provides flexibility for students who need to take an official leave of absence and makes a clear statement about expectations upon return.”

For more information on Rackham’s continuous enrollment process, please see their website.

2. I’m having a problem with fulfilling the continuous enrollment requirements (e.g. I need to take a leave of absence, I’ve lost funding, etc.). What should I do? Can GEO help me?

Since continuous enrollment is an academic policy issue, not an employment issue, the UM/GEO Agreement’s Grievance Procedure (Article IX) does not apply. While GEO can’t advocate for you in a continuous enrollment dispute as in a grievance, GEO can give you advice on how best to proceed in case of such a dispute. Feel free to contact our Grievance Chairs at

Also check out the following resources:

Remote Enrollment 

For up-to-date information regarding remote enrollment under COVID-19, please see the COVID-19 FAQ.

Ten-Term Rule

The “ten-term” rule is a LSA policy that limits total funding that derives from the College General Funds (including GSI/GSSA positions) for a graduate student to ten terms. This is not a GEO policy, nor is the ten-term rule in the UM-GEO Agreement. In fact, for years GEO has sought to remove the ten-term rule or to allow certain graduate students (parents, employees with disabilities) to be exempt from this rule. The University has consistently stated that they believed that the LSA ten-term rule is a matter of ‘academic decision’ and not a mandatory subject of bargaining. If members are concerned about the LSA ten-term rule, please contact the Contract Committee Chair ( to discuss how the ten-term rule might be addressed in the future.

The following explanation is current as of April 2019.  Please note that this policy can change at any time. Check the LSA website and speak with your department administrator for more details.

How the Ten Term Rule Works

Questions frequently arise concerning the details of implementation of the rule – what funding sources are included, how to handle small-fraction appointments, whether there can be exceptions, etc. Some of the most common issues are addressed below:

Funding Source: Only terms of LSA GSI support count toward the policy.

Terms Counted: A term of support is treated as one full term toward the 10 if a) it is during the Fall or Winter semesters b) the GSI-ship (or combination of GSI-ships) is at least a 0.25 fraction. 

Graderships: Smaller fraction graderships of 0.2 or less are treated on a pro-rata basis where the tuition waiver forms the basis of the calculation. For example, two successive 0.2 graderships are treated as one regular term of GSI appointment (because each one generates 50% of a tuition waiver). If two appointments are combined in one term so as to make a total of .25 or greater, then that is treated as one regular term of GSI appointment.

Relevant Unit: A term of support from any LSA unit is included toward the 10 terms. Appointing units must be careful of this: it is not always obvious that a student may have completed 10 terms of support when they approach some other unit with an open teaching position. We recommend you keep count of how many terms you have worked under this policy to avoid any confusion or last-minute complications.

Exceptions: Departments cannot grant exceptions to the Ten-Term rule. Exceptions must be requested of the Deans Office by the department (not the student). Exceptions are rare. Grounds for requesting exceptions arise if a student suffers a medical condition that drastically impedes progress toward a degree, or if a dissertation suffers from an uncontrollable and unexpected reversal (e.g., an academic advisor leaves the university, depriving a student of a dissertation chair). Convenience for a Department or errors in calculating eligibility do not constitute grounds for an exemption. 

Changes in Field: If a student changes disciplines in the course of pursuing a degree – e.g., by dropping out of Chemistry and going into Political Science – some adjustment in the Ten-Term calculation is usually made in consultation with the Deans Office.

Students Enrolled in Other Schools and College: The Ten-Term rule is defined with respect to the uses of LSA financial aid resources and not to enrollment. A student who is enrolled in another school or college and who receives 10 terms of GSI support in one or more LSA departments has exhausted eligibility for further support through LSA.