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The Ten-Term Rule

Current Policy

The College continues to espouse the academic and pedagogical principles that provide the foundation for the "Ten-Term" rule. There have been a number of modifications in the rule reflecting recognition of certain problems that arose in its application as well as changes in University circumstances:

  1. Dean Steiner's original model applied the rule to all forms of University financial aid, excluding only "external funding," and Rackham pre-doctoral fellowships. The College has relaxed the rule considerably by restricting its application to College funding sources. Thus all forms of financial aid from Rackham, and any support from other schools and colleges at the University are no longer included in the calculation of eligibility for continued support from LSA.
  2. The College has further relaxed the rule by excluding non-General Funds from the Ten-Term calculation. This means that students who are awarded aid through gifts and endowments administered by Departments need not include that support in the calculation of eligibility.

These two changes have been in place for several years and are particularly important for students whose programs require more than five years to complete. There are a number of programs that require extensive language study, and many graduate students carry out dissertation research abroad. The financial aid that is available for these activities typically does not come from College General Funds, and therefore even when these terms of study are fully supported, they are not included in the eligibility calculation. Rackham block grant, merit fellowships, dissertation fellowships and the like are similarly not included in the calculation, so that if, in the judgment of the Graduate School, study beyond five years is appropriate, there are forms of support available that do not conflict with the Ten-Term rule.

Another change concerns the treatment of small-fraction graderships. The original policy excluded from the calculation a maximum of two small-fraction graderships that were received before the first appointment at .25 or greater. After a graduate student received his or her first appointment at .25 or more, any term with support - even if only a small-fraction gradership - was to be included in the eligibility calculation. This arrangement has been replaced by a sliding scale. Graduate students may now take on graderships at any time during their programs and have them count as only fractional terms toward the ten. As few graduate students are supported by graderships during their first years, but many take on these roles later on, the revised policy makes this form of support more accessible to them.

Finally, although this is not a formal part of the policy, the College has introduced programs under which departments integrate pedagogy more thoroughly into their graduate academic programs. "TA Training" is now required in all departments. This increased emphasis has a twofold purpose. First, it recognizes the importance of high quality instruction for our undergraduates and seeks to provide them with Graduate Student Instructors who are well-prepared for and enthusiastic about their teaching. Second, it acknowledges the validity of the Task Force conclusion that teaching experience is a valuable part of graduate education by seeking to make teaching experience a formal part of that training.

The most recent updated to the policy happened in 2019, when it was decided that only GSI terms of support would be counted toward the rule. When the Ten Term Rule was created, LSA managed the LSA Regents' Fellowship program centrally, which made it easy to track students using those funds for first year fellowships. In January 2003, LSA Regents’ Fellowships were rolled into department budgets, making them harder to track. Monitoring GSI terms of support, which are already in the university’s database, streamlines the tracking of the policy.


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 provided during the academic year, and b) the total LSA general fund support comes to a .25 fraction or greater. As a matter of practice, the College does not count GSI positions in Term III.

Graderships: Smaller fraction graderships of .2 or less are treated on a pro-rata basis where the tuition waiver forms the basis of the calculation. For example, two successive .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. That means that one must combine support from different units in determining eligibility. Appointing units must be careful of this: it is not always obvious that a student may have completed 10 terms of support when he/she approaches some other unit with an open teaching position.

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. Extracting from the original Steiner letter: "The argument that a particular person is 'the best available,' or 'only available' teaching assistant will not generally be persuasive, nor will evidence that the candidate is making excellent progress toward completion of the degree. Nor will the fact that the department has erroneously committed itself to a particular individual be grounds for an exception."

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.


Policy Updated:  April 2019