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Graduate Assistantships

Definition, Purpose, and Philosophy

FINANCIAL SUPPORT FOR MASTER’S AND EDUCATIONAL SPECIALIST STUDENTS FROM THE GRADUATE COLLEGE

Graduate assistantships at Radford University are used to recruit and retain full-time quality students in graduate programs. They are designed to enhance the educational experience for both graduate students and the undergraduates with whom they may have contact. The primary goal of assistantships is to provide a stipend to help graduate students reach their educational objectives by working within the University community. Important professional skills are cultivated and developed in assistantship assignments which will aid the students in future career endeavors. The assistant/mentor relationship is vital; the best relationships will result from careful planning and communication. The guiding principle is that students will primarily benefit from their assistantships. Graduate assistants should, at all times, be viewed principally as students rather than employees. In this regard, they must make satisfactory progress in their degree program. To ensure that their assigned duties represent learning experiences that appropriately complement and do not adversely impact their ability to successfully complete rigorous academic programs, they are expected to work collaboratively with their supervisors.  Graduate assistants are expected to notify supervisors of schedule conflicts and must request flexible work arrangements as soon as possible.  Students who are frequently called away from their assistantship duties and cannot fulfill the bulk of their work obligation should not accept an assistantship award.  Evidence of this pattern may result in dismissal from an assistantship.

All assistantships are merit-based and competitive.  The availability of assistantships varies by a graduate program’s size, credit hour requirements, a student’s programs of study, and the degree to which the graduate program’s home department must balance graduate with undergraduate instruction.  Assistantships are typically awarded for two academic years (three in the case of the MFA), but continuation is not guaranteed.  Reappointment each term and year is contingent on performance in the position, academic standing, and the availability of funds.  Stipends for assistantships are paid four times each semester.

There are three types of Graduate College assistants: Graduate Assistants (GAs), Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) and Graduate Teaching Fellows (GTFs).  Each is described below.  After reviewing the types of assistantships, a link to a Graduate Assistantship Application is provided.  Students – typically in their first year - are nominated by their academic programs for Graduate Assistantships or Graduate Teaching Assistantships based upon merit.  Second year students in academic departments that teach introductory undergraduate courses may be nominated by their programs for Graduate Teaching Fellowships based on merit and appropriate pedagogical training. However, appointment to a GTF is not guaranteed.  Some programs do not offer GTFs.  Further, the process of selection to become a Professor of Record is a competitive one that may include students who were not awarded GTAs.

General Responsibilities

Students who receive assistantships are expected to make steady progress toward their degree while effectively performing their assigned duties. Graduate Assistants, Graduate Teaching Assistants and Graduate Teaching Fellows are expected to behave in a professional manner. Effective written and oral communication skills are necessary for students in assistantship assignments. These duties may vary widely, but generally include the following types of work:

  • Research assistance
  • Administrative assistance
  • Teaching assistance
  • Bibliographic research and record-keeping
  • Undergraduate advising
  • Paper grading
  • Instruction of laboratory, discussion or clinical sessions
  • Instruction of an introductory course

RU E-MAIL - All GAs, GTAs and GTFs are expected to activate and maintain their RU e-mail accounts upon admission to a program in order to receive important information from the Graduate College. 

Graduate Assistants, Graduate Teaching Assistants and Graduate Teaching Fellows are expected to follow all University regulations. They are obligated to maintain standards of academic honesty and integrity including full compliance with and support of the Honor Code.

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Assistantship Policies and Procedures for 2014-2015

Policies and procedures vary by the type of assistantship.

Graduate Assistant (GA)

Academic programs recommend students for Graduate Assistantships. Academic Program Coordinators work closely with other faculty within their department when assigning assistantship duties. A GA can be awarded to a student to work within an academic department as a graduate teaching, research or administrative assistant.  It is expected that GAs will primarily assist faculty with scholarly/creative activities or instruction, although there are some administrative GAs housed within academic departments.  A GA must have no regular teaching responsibility. Alternatively, a Program Coordinator may assign a student to work outside the department assisting the university staff in an administrative or advising office.  Supervisors in specific administrative or advising offices are allocated a set number of assistants from the Graduate College.  They then review the resumes of potential assistants who were assigned awards by their Coordinators/Directors and contact a qualified student directly to discuss the placement.  For both internal and external appointments, resumes are required as part of the Graduate Assistantship Application.  Regardless of whether a student is placed within or outside their home department, GAs must be allowed the flexibility to first attend to academics while fulfilling the expectations of their assignments. 

In order to receive a Graduate Assistantship, a student must be enrolled for at least 9 graduate credit hours, with a recommended maximum of 14 graduate credit hours.  The stipend for a GA assigned to work 20 hours per week is $9,000 for the academic year ($4,500 each semester).  A GA assigned to work for 10 hours per week receives a stipend of $4,500 per academic year ($2,250 each semester). 

Note that a GA contract may be awarded for a single semester (Fall or Spring) at the discretion of the Program Coordinator.  These awards are less common.

All new GAs appointed for the academic year must attend an orientation, generally offered the day before the start of classes in the Fall.  All GAs must be evaluated by their supervisor during the term they work (Fall, Spring, Summer).  The contract for a Fall or Spring GA runs from the day before classes begin till the last of day of classes in the term, respectively.

A very limited number of GAs are available during the summer, many of which are allocated to such external offices as the Advising Centers.    The application process is the same as for the regular academic year, except that Graduate Coordinators do not make assignments.  Supervisors of external offices are awarded a set number of assistantship hours.  They then review the resumes of potential assistants, contact and discuss their position with them, and make a recommendation to the Graduate College which shall then verify the student’s eligibility.  Summer Graduate Assistants must be enrolled for at least 6 semester hours (any combination of Maymester, Summer I, II and III). Registration for all 6 hours must be completed prior to the start of Maymester.  Summer GAs are paid as a function of whether they work 50 hours (for a total of $800), 100 hours (for a total of $1,600), 150 hours (for a total of $2,400), or 200 hours (for a total of $3,200) based on a schedule that accommodates both the student’s course requirements and the needs of the supervisor.  Most summer contracts are for Summer I.  A student may not work more than 20 hours per week, on average, for a summer assistantship.  Contact the Graduate College for more information.

 

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Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA)

A limited number of academic programs recommend students for Graduate Teaching Assistantships, typically for a student’s first year of study.  Program Coordinators work closely with other faculty in their department when selecting teaching assistants.  A GTA can be awarded to a student to work within an academic department to directly assist with undergraduate teaching. Serving as a Graduate Teaching Assistant for a University course is a demanding responsibility, reserved for only our best students.  A GTA generally will directly and regularly assist an instructor with teaching responsibilities for two sections of a course each semester.  This usually involves instructing two labs, discussion groups, clinicals or other equivalent activities for a course in which the instructor conducts the main lectures.  Though some teaching may and should be required, a GTA is not responsible for the conduct of a course or for assigning final grades. Specific course sections are assigned by the Graduate Program Coordinator or an assigned teaching mentor based upon the needs of the department. A GTA will report directly to her or his teaching mentor and must have weekly contact with that mentor.  A GTA must be formally evaluated by his or her mentor each semester. 

Ideally, a GTA is in training to become the “Professor of Record” for an introductory course in his or her second year and earn the title of Graduate Teaching Fellow.  Not all graduate programs have Teaching Fellows.  Reappointment as a GTA or appointment to a Teaching Fellowship is competitive and, therefore, not guaranteed.

In order to receive a Graduate Teaching Assistantship, a student must be enrolled for at least 9 credit hours.  The stipend for a GTA is $10,000 for 20 hours of work per week for the academic year ($5,000 each semester), plus an in-state tuition award. The tuition award consists of five (5) in-state graduate credit hours that will be directly applied to your tuition bill each semester.  GTAs who are not residents of Virginia may pay the remainder of their tuition based on in-state tuition rates if they are selected to receive a waiver for the out-of-state portion of their tuition by the program coordinator. (Out-of-state tuition waivers are based on the availability of funding in any given year.) GTAs enrolled in more than 9 credit hours in a term must pay the additional tuition based upon their status as residents or non-residents of Virginia.

GTAs are required to be on campus for training during the week before classes begin in the Fall. Specific programs or the Graduate College will notify GTAs of training dates.  New GTAs are also required to meet with their teaching mentor and attend a Graduate College Orientation for Teaching Assistants during this week or the weekend before classes begin, at a time to be announced.  A contract for a GTA runs from the Monday during the week before classes begin till the day grades are due.

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Graduate Teaching Fellow (GTF)

Some departments on campus use Graduate Teaching Fellows to teach introductory courses as the Professor of Record.  A Graduate Teaching Fellow is a student in her or his second (or, for the MFA, third) year of study who has demonstrated clear mastery of her or his discipline, along with excellent presentation, interpersonal and organizational skills.  As is the case for a GTA, a Graduate Teaching Fellowship is an honor reserved only for our best students.  To be selected, the student must have successfully completed at least 18 graduate credit hours in the discipline in which she or he is expected to teach, be enrolled full-time (for no more nor less than 9 graduate credit hours per semester), and have successfully undergone pedagogical training with mentoring.  While the GTF will generally have primary responsibility for the course being taught, weekly formal mentoring by a full-time faculty member is required.  GTFs will only be selected if they clearly have the ability to balance their own academic responsibilities with those of their assignment. GTFs will receive on-going feedback from their mentor and must be formally evaluated by their mentor and their students.

GTFs currently receive a stipend of $11,000 per year ($5,500/semester) plus an in-state tuition award. The tuition award consists of nine (9) in-state graduate credit hours that will be directly applied to your tuition bill each semester.  GTFs who are not residents of Virginia may pay the remainder of their tuition based on in-state tuition rates if they are selected to receive a waiver for the out-of-state portion of their tuition by the program coordinator.  GTFs enrolled in more than 9 credit hours in a term must pay the additional tuition based upon their status as residents or non-residents of Virginia. GTFs will generally teach two sections of a 100-level (or, with prior approval from the Graduate College, a 200-level) course each semester as Professor of Record.  This category is very limited, with assignments given only in circumstances where there is a compelling reason for a student to serve as the Professor of Record.

GTFs are required to be on campus for training during the week before classes begin in the Fall. Specific programs will notify GTFs of training dates.  A contract for a GTF runs from the Monday of the week before classes begin till the day grades are due.

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Eligibility Requirements for All Assistantships

To qualify for an assistantship, a student must be admitted as “degree-seeking” in accordance with the admission policies and procedures of the Graduate College. A minimum of a cumulative 3.0 GPA must be maintained for the duration of the appointment.  Students may not be awarded an assistantship while on conditional or temporary-conditional admission status.  However, students admitted on temporary status (i.e., the only outstanding requirement for admission is an official transcript verifying receipt of the undergraduate degree) are eligible for assistantships. 

The English language abilities of international students should be thoroughly evaluated in relationship to the demands of an assistantship award. A formal assessment of speaking ability must be included in the language evaluation of any international student whose duties include working with undergraduate students.

All Graduate College assistants will be expected to take a minimum of 9 credit hours of graduate course work in each of the Fall and Spring terms.  A summer GA must be enrolled for at least 6 credit hours over the course of the summer. 

All GAs, GTAs and GTFs must complete necessary tax forms, including the I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification. To conform to the Federal Immigration and Reform Control Act of 1986, documentation of identity and work eligibility is required.

International Students: Students maintaining valid F-1 or J-1 non-immigrant visa status are eligible to work on campus. Students in any other status may obtain work eligibility information specific to their visa by contacting the University Immigration Counselor at 540-831-6200. All international students must meet with the Tax Compliance Manager within 3 days of beginning their assignment. This individual will assist students in completing the tax withholding forms, Forms W-4 and VA-4, and verifying work authorization on Form I-9. Students will need to bring their passport, visa, Form I-94, Form I-20, Form I-9 documents and social security cards with them to this meeting. Students may call 540-831-7020 to set up an appointment.

Male Students: All males receiving an assistantship who are U.S. Citizens must complete a Selective Services Form.

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Application Process

Students may apply for a graduate assistantship by submitting a Graduate Assistantship Application, along with a resume, through a link on the Graduate College Application or the Graduate College website.  The Graduate College will then make the student’s resume available to the academic unit that is responsible for recommending the student for an award. Assistantship awards are contingent on merit, availability of funds and admission of the student to a degree granting graduate program. Award letters will be sent by the Dean of the Graduate College.

The target dates for submitting an assistantship application are as follows:

  Fall

  March 1 or by Program Application date

Summer

   April  1

* Most assistantships are awarded for an academic year and begin in the Fall. It is important to note that there are very few Summer openings.

 

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Allocation of Assistantships: Coordinator Information

Allocations to programs are made on the basis of merit and available funding. For the academic year (Fall/Spring), unallocated funding will be returned to the Graduate College for redistribution on or about June 15. For summer, any assistantships not awarded by the day that Spring term grades are due will revert to the Graduate College for redistribution. 

 

Award and Notification

Once the Program Coordinator/Director recommends a student for an award, the Graduate College will verify the student’s eligibility. Then, the Graduate College will send an award letter to the student. The student will accept or decline the award and return the signed award letter to the Graduate College. Specific duties will be assigned by the Program Coordinator/Director for students allocated positions within a department and by supervisors for those allocated positions in administrative or advising offices.

As a member of the Council of Graduate Schools, Radford University adheres to the following resolution.

Resolution:  Acceptance of an offer of financial support (such as a graduate scholarship, fellowship, traineeship, or assistantship) for the next academic year by a prospective or enrolled graduate student completes an agreement that both student and graduate school expect to honor. In that context, the conditions affecting such offers and their acceptance must be defined carefully and understood by all parties.

Students are under no obligation to respond to offers of financial support prior to April 15. In those instances in which a student accepts an offer before April 15, and subsequently desires to withdraw that acceptance, the student may submit in writing a resignation of the appointment at any time through April 15. However, an acceptance given or left in force after April 15 commits the student not to accept another offer without first obtaining a written release from the institution to which a commitment has been made. Similarly, an offer by an institution after April 15 is conditional on presentation by the student of the written release from any previously accepted offer. It is further agreed by the institutions and organizations subscribing to the above Resolution that a copy of this Resolution should accompany every scholarship, fellowship, traineeship, and assistantship offer.

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Insurance and Parking

Graduate Assistants, Graduate Teaching Assistants and Graduate Teaching Fellows are covered by the University’s liability insurance and by Worker’s Compensation.  GAs, GTAs and GTFs are not eligible for sick leave benefits.

Unfortunately for the 2014-2015 academic year, the Office of the Dean of Students is not able to offer a student health insurance plan through Radford University.

If you currently have coverage through Academic Health Plans, that coverage will end on July 31, 2014 and is not renewable.   However, we have outlined the options available to you.  

Options: 

A)    You can enroll/continue on your parent’s health insurance plan until age 26.

B)    You can access coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace (i.e., the Public Exchange) and may qualify for a subsidy offered through the Federal Government.  American Exchange can assist you with enrolling in the Health Insurance Marketplace and in obtaining any subsidy for which you are eligible. 

C)    You can contact a local insurance provider to purchase short term medical coverage on an individual basis.

To contact American Exchange directly, call 1-888-995-1674 to speak with a licensed agent. Please identify yourself as a Radford University student needing assistance with determining your best options for obtaining insurance coverage.

If you have questions or would like additional assistance, please contact the Dean of Students Office at 831-6259.

Graduate Teaching Fellows will be permitted to purchase Faculty/Staff parking permits, allowing them to park in designated faculty/staff lots.

Additional Employment

Students receiving GAs, GTAs or GTFs should avoid engaging in any employment beyond their assistantship, inside or outside the University, because of the demands of their studies and of their assistantships.

Tax Status

Stipends are taxable as earned income. They are subject to withholding and reportable to the IRS. Income tax withholding on the taxable amount is based on appropriate tax withholding forms, Forms W-4 and VA-4.

U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens: GAs, GTAs and GTFs are exempt from paying the social security tax if they are enrolled at least half-time per Internal Revenue Procedure 2005-11.

International Students: All international students awarded a Graduate College assistantship must meet with the Tax Compliance Manager within the first 3 days of class. This individual will assist students in completing the tax withholding forms, Forms W-4 and VA-4, and verifying work authorization on Form I-9. Students will need to bring their passport, visa, Form I-94, Form I-20, Form I-9 documents and social security cards with them to this meeting. Please call 540-831-7020 to set up an appointment.

International Graduate Assistants and Graduate Teaching Fellows are exempt from the social security tax withholding if they are on an F, J, M or Q visa and have not been in the United States for more than five calendar years. Those students who are not on an F, J, M or Q visa or who have been in the United States for more than five calendar years should read the section under "U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens" to determine if they are exempt from the social security tax.

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Supervision

The integration of the assistantship responsibilities and academic programs must be carefully coordinated and monitored by a faculty mentor. The mentor or faculty advisor has a serious responsibility to help the student monitor and manage the academic and assistantship roles. GAs, GTAs and GTFs should be provided with sufficient training, space and equipment necessary to effectively fulfill their assignments.

Each program or administrative office should designate an individual who has the overall responsibility for its assistants. Those programs and offices are encouraged to develop procedure manuals and other pertinent supplements that include the following:

·        A description of the responsibilities and expectations associated with the assistantship;
·        A description of all departmental, office, college, and University regulations;
·        A description of orientation, training, and mentoring activities; and
·        An assessment plan requiring the mentor to evaluate the Graduate Assistant, Teaching Assistant or Fellow.

Performance Evaluations

Programs are expected to provide an evaluation that is consistent with the plan set forth in the previous Supervision section. The Graduate College will electronically administer a Supervisor Evaluation of Assistantships during the Fall and Spring terms.  A productive evaluation should be an on-going process of bi-directional communication between the student and her or his mentor. Because the evaluation should be a supportive process that will help the student identify strengths and weaknesses in her or his assistantship duties, feedback must be provided to the student. Failure to complete the evaluation form or provide feedback to the student may result in the loss of assistantship support to a program or office in the future. 

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Conflict Resolution

The experience of a graduate student as a GA, GTA or GTF is an integral part of graduate education. An assistantship can be viewed as an apprenticeship under the guidance of a mentor, who is usually a faculty supervisor or administrative departmental supervisor. In most cases, this experience is instructive and positive. In some cases, however, a serious conflict may arise that may be resolved only through a change in supervisors or the termination of an assistantship.

 

POLICY

When a serious conflict between an assistant and a mentor or supervisor occurs, reasonable attempts should be made to resolve the conflict informally. If there is a conflict between a mentor or supervisor and an assistant that cannot be resolved by informal means, the most practical solution may be to reassign the student to new responsibilities. If reassignment is not feasible or does not appear to be warranted, the assistantship may be terminated by following the procedures given below. The student may also choose to relinquish the award by submitting a letter of notification to the Graduate College.

Most conflicts between a supervisor and a student can be prevented if the student is given a clear description of responsibilities and expectations for performance and if the student receives regular supervision and evaluation. If conflicts surface, however, the Graduate College encourages and supports concerted informal efforts toward resolution within the department, beginning at the mentor/supervisor-student level. The procedures below provide guidelines for resolving and mediating conflicts informally. The procedures also provide guidelines for terminating an assistantship when informal resolution is not possible and the assistant’s performance is found to be unacceptable. The Dean and Associate Dean of the Graduate College are available at any time to advise students, supervisors, graduate program administrators, or others who are involved in such conflicts.

Cases of academic misconduct, such as breaches of academic integrity in research and publication, are handled under the campus’s Academic Integrity Policies. McConnell Library has an online tutorial introducing academic integrity that can be found at: http://lib.radford.edu/Tutorial/X/index.asp

PROCEDURES

1. When a conflict about a student’s performance of assigned assistantship duties becomes apparent, concerted efforts shall be made to resolve the conflict informally. The supervisor and student should confer at the earliest opportunity, and review together the student’s assistantship responsibilities and nature of the difficulties being experienced. If the student is assigned to an administrative office, the faculty adviser or other trusted faculty mentor may attend this and other sessions convened under this policy. The supervisor shall follow up in writing to the student, stating expectations for improvements in the student’s performance. A written response shall be submitted by the student within five days after they receive the supervisor’s statement. Copies of this correspondence should be kept in the department or administrative office.

2. If informal efforts to resolve the problem are ineffective, the supervisor shall send a copy of relevant correspondence to the Graduate College, together with written comments about the nature of the conflict. The supervisor should also recommend whether the assistantship duties should be changed, whether the percent-time of the award should be reduced, whether the student should be assigned to a different supervisor, or whether there is due cause for termination of the assistantship. The student shall be notified of this action, and may submit additional written comments within five working days of such notification, unless granted an extension by the Graduate Dean or Associate Dean.

3. The Graduate College should confer promptly with the student and the supervisor to effect an agreement or reconciliation. If no agreement or reconciliation can be effected, the Dean of the Graduate College shall decide about how to proceed within seven working days after the conference.

a) If the decision of the Graduate College is to reassign the student, another appropriate supervisor should be identified as soon as possible, and the student should be reassigned to a different assistantship supervisor. The Graduate College shall promptly notify in writing the student and present and future supervisors of the decision.

b) If the decision of the Graduate College is that there are probable grounds to terminate the assistantship before the end of the award period, the Graduate College shall promptly notify in writing the student and the mentor or supervisor. This written notice shall include reasons for the proposed termination, and the student will be provided with the opportunity to respond within five working days before a final decision is rendered. Due cause for termination of the assistantship shall exist if a student has been grossly neglectful of or grossly inefficient in the performance of appropriate, assigned University duties and functions as determined by the supervisor and the Graduate College. Due cause shall also exist if a student cannot be relied on to perform such duties and functions in a manner consonant with professional standards of competence and responsibility. Termination for cause need not be deferred until the completion of the award period; it may occur at any time that the procedures described here are completed.

If the decision of the Graduate College is that there are probable grounds to terminate the assistantship, the stipend will end on the effective date of the Graduate College’s decision. Any tuition and fee waiver associated with the assistantship will also be cancelled on the effective date of the termination.

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Time

Time cards are currently required for graduate students having assistantships or fellowships. Time cards are to be turned in to the Payroll Office four times per Fall and Spring semesters and one time each during Summer I and Summer II semesters. It is recommended that supervisors review time worked on a periodic basis to make adjustments to the schedule accordingly. Additionally, it is recommended that a student gives as much prior notice as possible about any time that he/she will not be able to work (for example, being away at a professional conference). Basically, good communication is required between student and mentor/supervisor to ensure that 1) the student meets the expectations of the mentor/supervisor and 2) the mentor/supervisor accommodates the academic needs of the student.

Should there be any questions relating to the student’s schedule, the supervisor should take the lead in correcting the situation. Performance issues, such as when a student stops showing up to work, calls in sick habitually, does not report to work on time, or is habitually absent without a reasonable excuse may result in loss of the award. Supervisors and mentors can work with students to ensure that the assignments are completed and that there exists no excessive or ongoing time management issues. The mentor or supervisor may discuss the possible forfeiture of the following term’s assignment, should behaviors fail to improve.

The Graduate College stands by the principle that students receive stipends to help attain their professional objectives; they should not be treated as wage employees.

Official University Closings (includes holidays and emergency closings) – GAs, GTAs and GTFs will be paid their normal stipends during an official university closing. For example, if an official closing falls on a day of the week normally scheduled for work, the student shall receive the regular paycheck and shall not be required to make up the hours that were scheduled on that day. If an official closing falls on a day of the week normally not scheduled for work, the student shall not receive a day or hours off to compensate for the closing.

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Payroll InformationTax forms (W-4 and VA-4) are housed in the Payroll Department. Federal and state taxes will be withheld based on the information a graduate assistant provides on these forms.

Students should file new tax withholding forms if they have had a change in family status, or otherwise need to change the tax withholding status.

Paychecks are deposited directly into a student’s bank account from the Cashier’s Office in Heth Hall. Pay dates will be posted by the Graduate College.

NOTE: Graduate Assistants, Graduate Teaching Assistants and Graduate Teaching Fellows are required to pay tuition and fees when they are due according to the Student Account policy. It is important to note that the first stipend check is processed well into the semester (both Fall and Spring), typically four weeks after the semester has begun. Students may choose to set up a monthly payment plan.  Contact Payroll for information.

 

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FINANCIAL SUPPORT FOR DOCTORAL STUDENTS FROM THE GRADUATE COLLEGE

Pending budgetary availability, the University offers financial support for students enrolled full-time in Doctoral programs.  Please consult the specific Doctoral Program Coordinator/Director for detailed information on the level and type of support.