PROV-001: Graduate Assistantships

Date: 06/07/2012 Status: Final
Last Revised: 02/05/2016
Policy Type: Executive Vice President & Provost
Oversight Executive: Executive Vice President and Provost
Applies To: Academic Division.
Reason for Policy:

In order to provide an opportunity for graduate students to gain teaching and research experience as part of their graduate education, the University has defined different types of graduate assistantships. This policy specifies the qualifications for appointment and the conditions under which tuition remission and tuition adjustment may be awarded in conjunction with a qualified graduate assistantship.

Definition of Terms in Statement:
  • Advanced Doctoral Student:

    A student enrolled in a doctoral degree program who has completed all degree requirements except the dissertation.

  • Affiliated Status:

    Affiliated students are absent temporarily from the University for educational purposes and expect to complete their degree. Affiliated students are not enrolled, pay the affiliated status fee, and may not register for credits. Affiliated status must be approved by a student’s dean and may be used only for the purposes defined in policy PROV-011, Student Enrollment.

  • Assistantship–Related Terms:

    Includes:

    Assistantship Wages: Funds paid to a student in exchange for instructional or research services in a graduate assistantship; wages are not a form of stipend (see the defintion of  “Stipend” below).

    Full Graduate Assistantship: A full graduate assistantship is equivalent to one-half of a full-time appointment or roughly twenty hours per week.

    Qualified Graduate Assistantship: A graduate assistantship that is at least half of a full assistantship (that is, a quarter-time appointment, roughly equivalent to ten hours per week) is qualified to receive tuition remission and the health insurance subsidy and is eligible for tuition adjustment.

  • Forms of Financial Aid:

    Includes:

    Direct Aid: Any aid provided directly to a student, such as a stipend.

    Indirect Aid: Any aid provided on a student’s behalf to the University or another third party, including tuition, fees, and health insurance subsidies.

    Fellowship/Scholarship: Unearned aid (no work or repayment requirement) awarded to students. Fellowships and scholarships may consist of direct and indirect forms of aid.

    Stipend: An amount given directly to a student to support the pursuit of study or training. Students receiving a stipend are under no obligation to perform services as a condition of receiving the funds. Such support typically is provided over a period of time, e.g. ten monthly deposits of $500 each.

    Tuition Remission: The in-state tuition and all required fees paid on behalf of a student serving in a qualified graduate assistantship. Tuition remission pays only the in-state portion of an out-of-state student’s tuition charges, but pays all required fees, including the comprehensive fee, the University activity fee, the school activity fee, and, where applicable, the international student fee.

    Tuition Adjustment: The amount of tuition above in-state tuition paid on behalf of an out-of-state student serving in a qualified graduate assistantship. An out-of-state student who serves in a qualified graduate assistantship receives tuition remission (in-state tuition and all required fees) and may receive tuition adjustment (difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition; all required fees are covered as part of tuition remission).

  • General Funds:

    General tax revenues that are appropriated by the General Assembly for the use of the institution.

  • Graduate Assistantship:

    A form of graduate student employment that involves a supervised educational experience, wages, and tuition aid (see Section 6: “Qualified Assistantships and Tuition Remission” below). Graduate assistantships at the University include graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) and graduate research assistants (GRAs). (For further detail see Section 1: “Types of Assistantships” below.)

  • Non–General Funds:

    Resources which are earned or generated by the University such as tuition, F&A recoveries, grants and contracts, auxiliaries, or private resources.

  • Responsible Administrator:

    The faculty member or administrator responsible for a decision affecting a graduate student’s assistantship, including a supervising faculty member, director of graduate studies, department chair, or dean.

  • Student:

    An individual who either has been admitted to a degree or certificate program at the University or has received permission to enroll and is registered for coursework (including credit or non-credit) at the University during any given academic session (including fall or spring semesters, Summer Session, or January Term). 

Policy Statement:

Graduate assistantships provide a supervised opportunity for graduate students to gain experience in teaching or research while receiving wages.

The University views graduate students serving in assistantships first and foremost as students. Consequently, the goal of any assistantship must be to aid the student in the successful completion of the graduate degree.

Graduate students who serve in a graduate assistantship are paid in accordance with the wage authorization established each year by the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost and published on its website.

In addition to wages, graduate students who serve in a graduate assistantship may receive tuition support through tuition remission and adjustment awards and may be eligible for a health insurance subsidy. (For more information regarding the health insurance subsidy, see Section 7: Health Insurance Subsidy.)

Graduate students who are on leave or on Affiliated Status are not eligible for graduate assistantships.

  1. Types of Assistantships:
    1. Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs):
      Effective July 1, 1988, the Board of Visitors defined a full-time graduate teaching assistantship (GTA) for salary purposes as twenty work hours per week for the academic session. For laboratory and discussion sections, eight contact hours per week of supervision are considered to be a full work load; for multi-section courses, six credits per semester (i.e., two sections of three credits each) are considered a full work load. In all cases, the remaining hours (i.e., to reach the twenty hours/week work load) include time for maintenance of office hours, consultations with students, administration, grading of papers, preparation time, or other such duties as may be assigned.

      GTAs have instructional assignments in classrooms or laboratories. In general, GTAs have responsibility for a range of activities that include:

      • leading lecture and classroom activities connected with a single section of a multi-section course that is under the general supervision of a faculty member;
      • leading discussion sections or problem sessions associated with courses that are taught by a member of the regular faculty;
      • leading laboratory sections under the general supervision of a regular faculty member who has responsibility for the course.

      Other duties can include holding office hours, grading tests and other assignments, and responding to student questions in person and electronically. GTAs are expected to prepare sufficiently for each class or lab.

      An advanced doctoral student hired to teach an undergraduate course or courses without the supervision of a faculty member should be employed as a faculty wage employee, not a graduate teaching assistant. See policy PROV-026, Faculty Wage Employment.

      Graduate students are not allowed to serve as an instructor for courses carrying graduate credit, although they may, in exceptional circumstances, with dean’s permission, be assigned as teaching assistants to a course carrying graduate credit (see Section 2: Qualifications). Graduate students hired on an hourly basis to provide other types of academic support, such as grading tests or other short-term projects, are not graduate teaching assistants and are not eligible for tuition remission.

    2. Graduate Research Assistants (GRAs):
      GRAs conduct academically significant research related to their academic program and their development as future researchers, with a minimum of supervision, under the guidance of a faculty member. Graduate students hired on an hourly basis to conduct short-term research, organize conferences, or provide other types of academic support are not graduate research assistants and are not eligible for tuition remission.

  2. Qualifications:
    Students receiving any type of assistantship must be enrolled full-time in a graduate degree-granting program at the University and must possess an excellent academic record.

    In addition, all GTAs, per the accreditation requirements for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), are expected to:

    • have a master’s degree or 18 graduate credit hours in the discipline they are teaching;
    • receive direct supervision from a faculty member experienced in the teaching discipline;
    • participate in regular in-service training; and
    • undergo planned and periodic evaluations.2

    In the event the dean elects to support GTAs with fewer credit hours than specified by SACSCOC, the dean must retain documentation that justifies the qualifications of the individual GTA. This documentation may be subject to periodic audit.

    GTAs are not normally assigned to courses carrying graduate credit. Deans may grant exceptions for graduate students who have completed at least 18 credits in their discipline and who have substantial knowledge or expertise in the subject matter. In all cases, GTAs must demonstrate mastery of course content. Rationale for exceptions and the dean’s approval must be documented and maintained on file in the dean’s office. This documentation may be subject to periodic audit.

    GTAs may not be enrolled in courses for which they are assigned assistantship responsibilities.

    All prospective graduate teaching assistants whose first language is one other than English are required to take the SPEAK test. For more information, contact the Center for American English Language & Culture.

    Visiting graduate students may, in exceptional circumstances approved by the dean, serve as GTAs (see policy PROV-012, Financial Aid to Non-Degree-Seeking Students).


    2Faculty Credentials: Guidelines, SACSCOC, 2006.
  3. Supervisory Responsibilites of the Institution:
    Each graduate assistant should be supervised by a faculty member in performing the activities associated with the graduate assistantship.

    If the graduate assistant is a GTA, the supervising faculty member will be the faculty member responsible for the course or lab. The supervising faculty member of a GTA is responsible for:

    • designing the course content and publishing a course syllabus;
    • determining the grading policy;
    • providing in-service training for all GTAs assigned to the course; and,
    • evaluating the progress of the class and the GTA.

    For any type of graduate assistantship, the supervising faculty member or the department chair will notify the graduate assistant in writing of any decision that affects the graduate student’s academic or assistantship status. This includes advance notice of evaluation procedures and a summary of the evaluation.

    The graduate assistantship may be suspended or terminated if the supervising faculty member or department chair has cause. Stated causes for termination include, but are not limited to: professional incompetence, unacceptable performance after due notice, unethical or unlawful conduct, misconduct that interferes with the graduate student’s capacity to perform the responsibilities of the graduate assistantship effectively, the graduate student’s failure to make adequate progress on his/her degree, and falsification of credentials or experience. In the event of suspension or termination from a graduate assistantship, any tuition benefits awarded in conjunction with the assistantship will remain in effect for the term. Benefits committed for future terms may, however, be withdrawn, along with commitments for future assistantships. (See Procedure 3: Disciplinary Suspension or Termination.)

  4. Appointment Restrictions:
    To ensure that graduate students make steady progress toward degree completion while serving in an assistantship, the University imposes the following restrictions:

    • A graduate student may hold the equivalent of no more than one full graduate assistantship at any time; and
    • A graduate student who receives a full assistantship normally will not engage in other employment, either inside or outside the University (graduate students and their advisors may request an exception to this restriction in accordance with the provost’s wage authorization document).
  5. Notice of Reappointment:
    Unless specified otherwise in the assistantship appointment letter (see Procedure 1: Appointment to a Graduate Assistantship), a graduate assistantship is for a single academic term only. Schools and departments are encouraged to notify graduate students at least six weeks before the end of the academic term as to whether or not they will be appointed to a graduate assistantship in the subsequent term, even if exact responsibilities or funding sources cannot be defined at that time.

  6. Qualified Assistantships and Tuition Remission:
    Each academic term, the University provides tuition remission to those graduate students who serve during that term in a qualified assistantship.

    The payment of in-state tuition and all required fees should be made from the same source of funds from which the student is paid. For GTAs, this source is usually tuition revenue (through a state restricted award). For GRAs, this is usually a grant or contract.

    If sufficient funds are not available or payment is not allowable from the same source of funds, the department chair or the dean should identify another source of non-general funds from which to make the payment. For students receiving wages as both a GTA and a GRA (see Section 6a, Tuition Remission and Multiple Sources of Pay).

    1. Tuition Remission and Multiple Sources of Pay:
      If a student's assistantship is “split-funded,” that is, the student is either receiving wages as both a GTA and a GRA or receiving wages that are funded from multiple sources of funds, payment should be made from each source of funds, proportional to the wages paid from each source. The percentage of tuition remission paid from a grant can be no more than the percentage of work for which the student is being paid from the grant.

      For example, a graduate student who is dedicating one-quarter of her/his time as a GTA (approximately five hours per week) and three-quarters of his/her time as a GRA (approximately fifteen hours per week) should receive one-quarter of his/her remission payment from a non-grant source and three-fourths from the grant that paid her/his wages as a GRA.

      Graduate students who receive part of their wages through an assistantship that is at least half-time (and therefore qualified for tuition remission) and part through a position that is not an assistantship (for example, a graduate student worker or employment with another University office, such as the University Library or Student Financial Services) should receive tuition remission entirely from the source of funds that is paying the wages for her/his qualified assistantship. For example, a half-time GRA who is also working as a student employee in the University Bookstore would receive full tuition remission from the grant that is paying her/his wages as a GRA.

    2. Tuition Adjustment:
      Graduate students who are out-of-state students and who earn at least $5,000 in wages over the course of the fiscal year as a GTA or GRA may be awarded full or partial tuition adjustment for that term to pay the difference between the in-state tuition paid by tuition remission and out-of-state tuition. Full adjustments may be granted to qualifying graduate students to the extent that resources are available in the school or department.

  7. Health Insurance Subsidy:
    A graduate student must be offered the health insurance subsidy if he/she earns at least $5,000 in wages over the course of the fiscal year as a GTA or GRA.

    Schools wishing to provide health insurance to graduate students who do not meet the qualifications defined above may do so by processing a health insurance subsidy through the Student Information System (SIS) using non-general funds.

    Schools wishing to supplement the single-coverage plan may award a stipend to the student sufficient to fund his or her health insurance premium.

    The following students do not qualify for the health insurance subsidy:

    • graduate students employed only in other capacities by the University (such as a graduate student worker or a work-study employee or graduate students hired as instructors on the academic non-tenure-track faculty); or
    • students enrolled exclusively in the first professional degree programs offered by Law, Medicine, or Darden (students enrolled in these schools may be qualified if they are enrolled either in a Ph.D. program in the school or in certain dual graduate degree programs and meet the criteria defined above).

    The amount provided on behalf of each qualified graduate student as a health insurance subsidy is defined as part of the University’s annual budget process and may be less than or equal to 100% of the premium for single coverage under the University-sponsored student health insurance program. Annually, the University evaluates the cost of the single coverage premium for all eligible students versus available University resources and reserves the right to reduce the subsidy to less than 100% if necessary.

    The health insurance subsidy is non-transferable and non-refundable; unused subsidies cannot be refunded for their equivalent cash value.

    A student may cease to qualify for the health insurance subsidy for reasons including but not limited to:

    • The student withdraws from the University during the course of the academic year; or
    • The student is not employed in the capacity that was anticipated at the start of the academic year (i.e., the student was expected to serve in a qualified graduate assistantship during the spring semester, but in actuality was not employed in that capacity).

Before September 15 of each academic year, if a student ceases to qualify for the subsidy, the University will cancel payment of the student’s health insurance subsidy. After September 15, if a student ceases to qualify after s/he has been offered the subsidy and has enrolled in the student health insurance plan, the University will not cancel its payment of the student’s subsidy.

  1. Grievances:
    A graduate student who wishes to bring a complaint related to a graduate assistantship, including a complaint related to a disciplinary suspension or termination, may do so within ten (10) calendar days of the date on which the decision being contested was communicated to the graduate student, in accordance with the grievance procedure described below (see Procedure 4: Grievance Procedure).

    Complaints of discrimination or harassment, that is any complaint that the student has been subjected to discrimination on the basis of age, color, disability, gender identity, marital status, national or ethnic origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation, veteran status, or family medical or genetic information by the University, are not appropriate for review under the grievance procedure described in this policy and are handled under policy HRM-009, Preventing and Addressing Discrimination and Harassment (PADH), HRM-010, Preventing and Addressing Retaliation, and the related complaint procedures maintained by the Office for Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights (EOCR).

    Reports of sexual assault, sexual exploitation, intimate partner violence, stalking, or sexual or gender-based harassment are not appropriate for review under the grievance procedure described in this policy and are handled in accordance with policy HRM-041, Policy on Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment and Other Forms of Interpersonal Violence and its appendices.

    Disciplinary actions taken against GTAs/GRAs as a result of an investigation pursuant to HRM-009, HRM-010, or HRM-041 do not qualify for review as a grievance under this policy.

Procedures:
  1. Appointment to a Graduate Assistantship:
    Each graduate student appointed to a graduate assistantship should receive a letter of appointment at least once each year (or once each term, if the terms of the appointment change from term to term) referencing this policy and specifying the term of the appointment, hours, and compensation, including whether the assistantship will qualify for tuition remission, the qualified health insurance subsidy, and to what extent the student will also receive tuition adjustment, if applicable. This letter serves as the contract. A copy should be returned to the department or dean’s office with the signature of the appointee indicating his/her acceptance of the appointment. The dean’s office or the department should retain the appointment letter for 3 years. Note that changes in the source of funding for a graduate assistantship (for example, from one grant to another) during the course of the semester does not require additional written notice to the graduate student, as long as the terms of the graduate student’s payment and assignment of responsibilities do not change. Schools and departments are encouraged to describe assistantship responsibilities in general terms to avoid the necessity of reissuing appointment letters.

    Departments that wish to appoint a graduate student with fewer than 18 graduate credits to a graduate teaching assistantship must request approval from the dean’s office before the appointment is made. The request should include the student’s name (or a list of names) and the justification for the exception, which may be one of the following:

    1. Strong undergraduate academic record; TA assignment limited to facilitating discussion and grading under the supervision of a faculty member;   
    2. Strong undergraduate record; fluent speaker in language of instruction;
    3. Strong undergraduate record; TA assignment supplemented by extensive instruction in pedagogy within the discipline; or
    4. Unforeseen/emergency teaching need (explain circumstances and describe graduate student’s qualifications).

    If a graduate student fulfills the terms and conditions of the initial appointment to a graduate assistantship, the student may be considered for reappointment in successive years up to the limit prescribed by the school or department; however, students who serve as graduate assistants have no expectation of reappointment unless provided for in writing by the department or school.

  2. Processing Wages for an Assisantship:
    GTAs and GRAs are paid wages using the University’s payroll system. Assistantship wages are paid on a bi-weekly schedule. Of the twenty-six bi-weekly pay periods, ten occur during the fall term, ten occur during the spring term, and six occur during the summer. To determine the start of the fall term for the current year, see the wage authorization issued annually by the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost.

    GTAs are assigned the job title of Graduate Instructor A (normally those graduate students earning a master’s degree or its equivalent) or Graduate Instructor B (normally students who already possess a master’s degree or its equivalent). These titles apply to those graduate students with instructional assignments in classrooms, laboratories, or discussion sections.

    GRAs are assigned the job title of Graduate Research Student A (those students earning a master’s degree or its equivalent) and Graduate Research Student B (those students who already possess a master’s degree or its equivalent).

    The job titles of Graduate Instructor A and B and Graduate Research Student A and B may not be used for any other purpose than those defined in this policy.

    Students holding a full-time assistantship (considered a 0.5 FTE) must be entered in the Integrated System payroll module as Part-time-Regular and have normal hours of 20 hours per week. Students holding a half-time assistantship (considered a 0.25 FTE) are also entered as Part-time-Regular, with normal hours of 10 hours per week. Students may not be entered with an FTE of 0.25 or greater unless they are serving in a qualified assistantship.

  3. Disciplinary Suspension or Termination:
    A supervising faculty member, director of graduate studies, department chair, or dean (hereafter “the responsible administrator”) who wishes to suspend or terminate a graduate student from all or part of their graduate assistantship in accordance with the criteria specified above (see Section 3: Supervisory Responsibilities of the Institution) prior to the end of the academic term should provide written notice to the graduate student of the charge(s) and the information supporting the charges.

    The responsible administrator may determine that the graduate student will be removed from some or all of her/his assistantship responsibilities immediately, in which case the graduate student will continue to receive assistantship wages pending the resolution of any grievance in accordance with the grievance procedure defined below (see Procedure 4: Grievance Procedure). If, for example, a graduate student is serving as a GTA and a GRA, she/he may be removed from her/his GTA responsibilities but continue to serve as a GRA at the discretion of the dean and the faculty member who is supervising the student as a GRA. The graduate student’s wages as a GTA would continue pending the resolution of any grievance; the graduate student’s wages as a GRA would continue unaffected.

    Once the disciplinary suspension or termination is final (either upon the student’s acceptance of the decision or the dean’s final determination), the student’s assistantship wages related to the suspended or terminated responsibilities will end immediately.

  4. Grievance Procedure:
    A graduate student who wishes to bring a complaint related to a graduate assistantship, including a complaint related to a disciplinary suspension or termination, should speak first with the responsible administrator within ten (10) calendar days of the date on which the decision being contested was communicated to the graduate student.

    In the event that the responsible administrator is the supervising faculty member or the department’s director of graduate studies/program director and the student and faculty member are unable to resolve the issue, the student may submit a written appeal to the department chair within ten (10) calendar days of meeting with the responsible administrator.

    Students who, for good reasons, do not meet first with the responsible administrator may still file a written grievance with the department chair within ten (10) calendar days of the date on which the decision being contested was communicated to the graduate student.

    The written appeal should specify the decision being contested, the steps the student has taken to resolve his/her complaint, and the requested resolution. The student should include any supporting documentation he/she considers relevant to the appeal. In the event that the student elects to file the grievance with the department chair without first meeting with the responsible administrator, the written grievance should specify the reasons for not attempting to resolve the complaint with the responsible administrator.

    The department chair will investigate the complaint. Investigation will include but is not limited to reviewing relevant documentation and meeting with the student and the faculty member or University official who made the decision being contested. Within thirty (30) calendar days after receiving the grievance, the department chair will communicate in writing her/his decision to both the student and the faculty member or official.

    Within five (5) calendar days after receiving the decision, the student may appeal to the dean. The only basis for appeal is documented evidence that adjudication of the grievance failed to comply with the terms of this policy. Dissatisfaction with the outcome of the grievance shall not be grounds for appeal.

    Within thirty (30) calendar days after receiving the appeal, the dean will consider the evidence and communicate in writing her/his decision to the student, the faculty member or official, and the department chair, unit head, associate dean, or designated official involved in the case. The dean’s decision will be final.

    In the event that the responsible administrator is the department chair, the student may appeal to the dean or his/her designee in writing, as specified above, within ten (10) calendar days of meeting with the responsible administrator. If the responsible administrator is the dean, the dean’s decision following her/his meeting with the graduate student is final. University officials (including the supervising faculty member, the department’s director of graduate students, the department chair, or any other individual charged with reviewing the student’s concerns in accordance with this policy) must document each meeting with the student in writing and place a copy in the student’s department or school file.

  5. Health Insurance Subsidy:
    Graduate Students: To take advantage of the health insurance subsidy, qualified graduate students must enroll in the University’s student health insurance plan. The University pays the insurance subsidy directly to the insurance provider on the student’s behalf.

    Schools and Departments: The health insurance subsidy for qualifying GRAs should be charged to the appropriate grant. If sufficient funds are not available from the grant, the subsidy must be funded from another available non-general fund source in the school.

Related Information:

HRM-009, Preventing and Addressing Discrimination and Harassment (PADH)
HRM-010, Preventing and Addressing Retaliation
HRM-041, Policy on Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment and Other Forms of Interpersonal Violence

PROV-027, Academic Accommodation for Graduate and Professional Students Who Experience Significant Life Events
PROV-028, Financial Childbirth Accommodations for Graduate Students on Assistantship

“Graduate Students Employed as GRA or GTA and Fellowship/Scholarship Recipients Receiving Health Insurance Benefits” [additional Information from Investment and Tax Services (.pdf)]
Student Health

Wage Authorization

Major Category: Executive Vice President & Provost Policies
Next Scheduled Review: 08/17/2018
Approved by, Date: Executive Vice President and Provost, 06/07/2012
Revision History: Revised 2/5/16, 8/17/15.
Supersedes (previous policy):
PROV-001, Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs); PROV-008, Tuition Remission Policy for Graduate Teaching, Administrative, and Research Assistants