Voluntary and mandatory medical leave: what you need to know

As students enter a new school year, there’s always a concern that due to something like a torn ACL, anxiety or depression, they will have to drop out.

But UO has a policy for these situations that often goes unseen, and it could mean that a student loses their tuition and federal aid without reimbursement.

If the school thinks that a student has received the necessary treatment, the student is required to work with the Dean of Students Kris Winter to outline a plan of successful return to the school.

There are two options with the Student Medical Leave Policy: voluntary or mandatory.

The choice of voluntary medical leave states that if a student feels they need to take a step back from school in order to receive full-time medical help. The student must contact Winter and, if requested, present a recommendation from the student’s physician or psychologist.

A mandatory leave occurs when a student is acting outside of the boundaries of safety towards themselves or other students, causing potential harm or risk.

LeAnn Gutierrez is the Executive Director of the University Health Center, and has yet to see a student leave for medical reasons during her one year working at UO.

When the university is considering the mandatory leave for a student, it looks for students not taking care of themselves. That could be an eating disorder, self-harm or not taking medications. Those are all violations of University Standards of Responsibility and Self Care.

“By refusing, meaning that they’re not taking care of themselves, their health is deteriorating and they’re not playing an active role and they’re becoming a danger to themselves,” Gutierrez said. “That’s where they have a responsibility for self-care. So if a student is severely deteriorating, refusing to care for themselves, it becomes a safety issue for us.”

Money problems

If a student triggers the mandatory leave policy, for example, by having a mental breakdown in the middle of the term, they could not get any tuition back. The process follows the refund schedule set by the Office of the Registrar.

But students are allowed to petition in order to get their money back.

Mark Diestler, Senior Associate Director for the Financial Aid and Scholarships department, said the process can be daunting and lengthy, especially when it includes federal aid.

Students receiving federal aid are required to follow a formula in order to determine the amount of aid they receive, according to Diestler.

For example, if a student has a Pell Grant, the school would have to return that money to the federal government.

In a scenario of a medical leave, the person with the most influence in the situation is Winter. While she has also never dealt with a medical leave situation in the year she’s been at UO, the school is prepared to make sure a student is taken care of, and also plan their return.

“Our goal isn’t to block them from continuing their education. It’s to make sure they’re in the best space to be successful,” Winter said. “Because what we don’t want is a student to come back too early, invest the money, and then have to withdraw again and then they lose some of that money too, or it hurts their GPA.”

Follow Erin Carey on Twitter: @elcarey

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Erin Carey

Erin Carey

Erin Carey is a Senior Reporter, majoring in Journalism and minoring in Comparative Literature. She loves coffee, hockey and telling visitors at the Oregon Zoo random facts about the animals.