About Graduate Assistantships

Types of graduate assistants are defined by President's Policy Memorandum 129.

Graduate Assistant (GA) 
Graduate assistants are graduate students who provide academic and program support. GA responsibilities may be administrative in nature and consist of duties unrelated directly to teaching or research (such as academic advising, program planning, advising student groups, and assisting with the administration of student services offices). GA responsibilities may also be academic in nature and include grading examinations, problem sets, and/or lab assignments, setting up displays for lectures or laboratory sections, and preparing or maintaining equipment used in laboratory sections.

Graduate Research Assistant (GRA)
Graduate research assistants are graduate students conducting academically significant research under the direction of a faculty member, who is generally a principal investigator on an external grant or contract.

Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) 
Graduate teaching assistants may provide academic program support under the supervision of a faculty member. GTAs may assist faculty in the department in teaching undergraduate courses, including laboratory teaching assignments, or in providing other appropriate professional assistance, including grading examinations, problem sets, and/or lab assignments, setting up displays for lectures and laboratory sections, and preparing or maintaining equipment used in laboratory sections. GTAs must have 18 hours of graduate-level course work in their teaching discipline to be assigned full responsibility for teaching an undergraduate course. GTAs lacking this training will be assigned to work under the supervision of a faculty member who will be the instructor of record for the course.

Regular or provisional graduate students are eligible for an assistantship position if they meet the following criteria:

  • Maintain at least a 3.0 grade point average (provisional students may be accepted with a GPA between 2.75 and 2.99).
  • Satisfy enrollment requirements (12-18 hours per semester) during the academic year (fall and spring; summer enrollment is optional). Audit hours do not count toward the total number of hours; research & dissertation hours are counted.
    • Students in defending status during a summer term may remain on assistantship if they were on assistantship in the spring. However, their assistantship appointment must be terminated after they defend and submit their ETD.
    • Graduate assistants who defend during the semester are expected to continue the assistantship until the end of the semester regardless of their defense and ETD submission date.
  • Make satisfactory progress toward degree as defined by academic department and Graduate School.
  • Meet the requirements to be eligible for employment in the U.S.:
    • Either prior to or within the first three days of employment at Virginia Tech, students must present acceptable documentation of their identity to show that they are either a U.S. citizen or an alien who is authorized to work in the United States. Continued employment will be contingent upon meeting this requirement.

 

Undergraduate students in a Bachelor/Master program who are in their last semester of the undergraduate level can receive graduate assistantship appointments. Tuition is awarded at the undergraduate rate and out-of-state fees cannot be waived. While tuition for an undergraduate can be awarded using the tuition remission award screen in Banner (TZATRAW), departments must contact the Bursar's office when it is time for the award to be funded on TZATRAF. A manual process is required.

For all males: The Code of Virginia requires selective service compliance as a condition for employment. Newly hired male faculty, staff, and students must complete the Selective Service Registration Questionnaire before they can start work. Students will be asked to complete this form after they accept the assistantship offer. Prospective employees who indicate on the form that they were required to register but did not register, must present verification from the Selective Service System to Personnel Services indicating the requirement is terminated or inactive before they can be hired. Male students unaware of their status are strongly encouraged to contact Selective Service System at 1-847-688-6888 for a determination so that they may obtain the appropriate paperwork in advance of the effective hire date.

Students in the following categories may not receive a graduate assistantship appointment:

  • Commonwealth students
  • Non-degree or transient students
  • Non-resident alien students whose immigration status does not allow employment in the United States
  • Students in Start of Semester Defense Exception or planning to defend early in the semester and leaving before the end of the semester (enrolled in 1-3 credit hours for defense) during fall and spring. Students in these instances may be paid on wages or P14.
  • Students who hold a P14 type appointment which is considered professional employment
  • Undergraduate students in BS/MS program if not in their last semester of undergraduate level

Stipends, Tuition, and Fees

The stipend table for graduate assistants ranges from Step 1 to Step 50. Each step represents a pay range within which full-time (20 hrs/wk) graduate assistants must be paid. Individual departments determine which pay step to use based on the student's qualifications and experience, academic standing and availability of funds. Departments have a wide range of stipend options with which to match competitive offers to promising graduate program applicants. Departments are encouraged to develop and consistently apply internal policies to determine what stipend steps to use.

The 2017-18 assistantship stipend table approved by the Board of Visitors becomes effective 8-10-2017.  A 2% pay increase and a $400 annual supplement have been folded into the new stipend rates:

For the duration of the assistantship (except summer), students who are paid less than $3327/month on assistantship stipend will receive a scholarship for the in-state tuition, technology fee and library fee, proportionate to the assistantship appointment. Hiring departments are obligated to secure funds to cover the in-state tuition and applicable fees proportional to the appointment for these students. Students who are paid $3327/month or more may need to pay their tuition from their assistantship stipends. Departments must specify on the assistantship agreement whether or not tuition will be paid by the department or the student. Payment of summer tuition is optional.

Undergraduate students in a bachelor/master program who are in their last semester of the undergraduate level can receive a graduate assistantship appointment. Tuition is awarded at the undergraduate rate and out-of-state fees cannot be waived. While tuition for an undergraduate can be awarded using the tuition remission award screen in Banner (TZATRAW), departments must contact the Bursar's office when it is time for the award to be funded on TZATRAF. A manual process is required.

The out-of-state fee waiver is described as the UF (unfunded) Differential by the Bursar's Office and is the difference between in-state tuition and out-of-state tuition. The Code of Virginia allows out-of-state fees to be waived for graduate assistants who earn more than $4000 during the academic year (between Aug 10 and May 9) on assistantship stipend.  Earnings in wage positions or summer graduate assistantship appointments do not count toward meeting this requirement. The out-of-state waiver is awarded automatically as soon as: 1) the student registers for courses, and 2) the department enters the NOAEPAF for the assistantship. Out-of-state fees cannot be waived for undergraduate students.

Eligibility for out-of-state waiver based on assistantship status and earnings:

  • Fall: Must be on 4.5- or 9- or 12-month GA/GTA/GRA and earn at least $2000 on assistantship stipend between Aug 10-Dec 24
  • Winter: Must be on a 9- or 12-month GA/GTA/GRA and earn at least $2000 on assistantship stipend between Aug 10-Dec 24, or $4000 or more between Aug 10-May 9
  • Spring: Must be on 4.5- or 9- or 12-month GA/GTA/GRA and earn at least $2000 on assistantship stipend between Dec 25-May 9
  • Summer: Must have been on a 9- or 12-month GA/GTA/GRA or spring-only assistantship and earned at least $4000 on assistantship stipend between Aug 10-May 9

 

Students who are enrolled in programs that have a program-specific graduate online tuition rate (such as MIT, MNR, PSALS, and LGMC) are not eligible for the out-of-state waiver, since they are assessed a flat rate that is not residency specific.

Starting 2015-16, the capital fee is renamed Commonwealth Facility & Equipment Fee (CFE). All out-of-state students must pay the CFE fee. The CFE is not part of tuition and cannot be waived.

A Request for Late Fee Waiver can be submitted by a department for a student who is not at fault for the late fee under these conditions:

  1. The department was late in entering the tuition award, which caused a late fee penalty;
  2. The automatic out-of-state waiver was applied late because the department was late in entering the NOAEPAF.
  3. The student met all of his/her financial obligations by the payment deadline. 

For example, if the department was late in entering the tuition award but the student was late in paying the comprehensive fees, a late fee waiver cannot be requested. The Bursar's Office requires that the department head sign the form. A department head can also request waiver of a late fee by sending an email request to the Bursar's Office.

Creating Assistantship Contracts

The graduate assistantship contract form is a legal document that has undergone an approval process by the University General Counsel, Personnel Services, the Graduate School, and the Commission on Graduate Studies and Policies. Previous versions of the graduate assistantship contract should not be used.

As of January 1, 2006 all agreements should be generated using the Graduate School 's online electronic assistantship agreement tool .

Data from the agreement form is automatically submitted to the Graduate School once the form is completed. The department should print a paper copy of the form for the student and department designee to sign. The signed, original document must be retained by the department for 5 years.

A copy of the paper form does not need to be sent to the Graduate School.

If significant corrections need to be made after an agreement is submitted, departments should generate a new form. It is not necessary to contact the Graduate School about the update.

NOTE:  The Graduate School, in conjunction with the Bursar’s Office, has been working on developing a fully integrated centralized process to create and authorize assistantship contracts and manage PAF and tuition remission entries. We will be rolling out the first phase of this project – a contract creation and approval system that will replace all current methods of contract creation – in February 2018. At that time, the current online contract will be retired and replaced by the new contract tool which all departments will be required to use for creating new contracts. Training sessions for this new tool are currently being offered. Email amg-g@vt.edu if you are interested in attending this training.

 

The online assistantship contract tool provides a fillable form that must be completed in order to create an assistantship contract. Once the fields are completed, the Submit button is clicked and a new screen opens that shows the completed two-page form, which can be printed and saved as a pdf file.

Fillable fields include the student's name, ID Number, and Hiring Department. A radio button allows you to select GA, GTA or GRA, and whether or not the student should attend the GTA workshop. Start and End dates can be selected by clicking on the Show Calendar button, or filling in mm/dd/yyyy.

Departments can choose to enter the number of hours per week or the percent of full-time employment (FTE). After the entry of one field, the other field is automatically calculated and populated.

A drop-down menu allows selection of academic year for the appointment. A check box gives the option to select Summer Only appointment. For Summer appointments, tuition will not be calculated automatically, but it may be entered if the department chooses.

There is a check box option for Extended Campus. If this option is selected extended campus tuition will be the default rate.

Departments must enter the exact monthly amount they wish to pay to the student. The equivalent pay step will be automatically calculated.

Whether or not special conditions apply can be selected by a radio button, and special conditions can be specified in a fillable field that allows up to 350 characters (including spaces). If more detailed information is required, it is suggested that a cover letter be attached that specifies the conditions.

A check box is available to show whether the department will pay tuition. The tuition field defaults to the current in-state tuition amount, proportional to the FTE specified earlier. Departments may enter a higher amount than the default entry. For example, a half-time (0.5 FTE) GA is entitled to half tuition, which will be automatically calculated on the form; however, the department may want to pay full tuition, and can overwrite the field with the full tuition amount. The Engineering Fee and Architecture & Design Fee fields work the same way.

The date the student must return (accept or decline) the agreement is entered.

If the student is a New International Student this box should be checked.

The Submit button is then clicked. The form will calculate and then appear with all fields completed for your review. If the data is correct, click the Confirm button. Once confirmed, the agreement will open in a new window as the completed 2-page assistantship contract form. The contract is generated as a PDF file, which can be printed and saved.

One-semester appointments equal 9 pay periods. Two-semester appointments equal 18 pay periods. The start and end dates shown on the agreement form may lag behind actual Banner payroll dates, but it recommended that departments use Banner effective dates. A graduate assistantship appointment may be entered in Banner at any time during the year; however, there are standard start and end dates that should be used for academic year or semester-long appointments, regardless of the day of the week on which these dates fall. This facilitates the proper distribution of assistantship benefits that are prorated by pay periods.

Standard Graduate Assistantship Agreement Start and End Dates, if not using the Banner appointment date
Academic Year:           August 16 through May 15
Fall Semester:              August 16 through December 31
Spring Semester:        January1 through May 15
Summer Semester:    May 16 through August 15

 

Corresponding Banner NOAEPAF Start and End Dates
Academic Year:            August 10 through May 9
Fall Semester:               August 10 through December 24
Spring Semester:        December 25 through May 9
Summer Semester:    May 10 through August 9

Dates and Deadlines 
Hiring departments enter the graduate assistantship appointments on Banner using the NOAEPAF screen.

Banner entry deadlines are established by the Payroll Office. It is the departments' responsibility to observe these deadlines and enter appointments in a timely manner. Departments are advised to enter Academic Year or Fall Semester appointments by August 1 to facilitate the insurance benefit application for graduate assistants, even though the actual payroll deadline is later that month.

Out-of-state fee waivers are processed automatically when the NOAEPAF is entered and upon registration of the student for that semester.

User's manual for entering appointments 
Detailed information about entering graduate assistantship appointments on Banner is available here.

Requests for exceptions when student has low GPA or is appointed in final semester of BS/MS program
When a student has a GPA below 3.0 but the hiring department wants to offer an assistantship contract anyway, or if a department wants to hire a BS/MS student in the final semester of their undergraduate program, use GEXHIR or GEXJOB as the approval category, and enter GRADAPPR in the GRAD 70 row. The student's supervisor and academic advisor must provide an explanation in the comment section regarding departmental plans to ensure that the student will be able to improve his/her GPA. The explanation can be sent by email to the PAF enterer to copy and paste into the comments field. For BS/MS students indicate in the comment section that the student is in his/her final semester of undergraduate program. Exceptional appointments cannot be longer than one semester at a time.

Deadline for Accepting an Assistantship Offer

Virginia Tech supports the Council of Graduate Schools Resolution Regarding Graduate Scholars, Fellows, Trainees and Assistants. This resolution is included in the assistantship agreement:

Acceptance of an offer of financial support (such as [...] 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; earlier deadlines for acceptance of such offers violate the intent of this Resolution. 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.

Departments should adhere to the guidelines set forth in the resolution.

Benefits for Graduate Assistants

Out-of-state Fee Waivers (see section in Stipends, Tuition, and Fees)

Students with GTA appointments are eligible for GTA parking privileges on days when their responsibilities require consistently being present during regularly scheduled class meeting times or labs, or class related office hours of at least 3 hours in duration on any given day. GTA tags can be used for a full day on these days, for up to three days per week. GTA positions are filled positions (converted from faculty positions) and therefore the number of parking tags are limited to the number of filled positions.

The GTA Parking Permit Request form is available from Parking Services. Students can print the form and fill in the required fields. A GTA supervisor or designated authority must sign the form, which the student returns to Parking Services to obtain the GTA parking tag. There is no charge for a GTA parking tag; however, students will need to purchase the graduate student parking permit.

Graduate assistants who maintain at least a 50% assistantship (10 hours per week), may be eligible for health insurance benefits. Visit the Graduate School 's insurance benefits web page for additional information.

Graduate students on assistantship appointment may pay their comprehensive and CFE fees through a payment plan during the fall and spring semesters. Enrollment is managed through Hokie SPA and students must sign up each semester in which they wish to take advantage of this opportunity. Enrollment is not available for the summer terms. The payment plan allows students to pay their comprehensive and CFE fees over the course of the semester.  Fully integrated with the students account system, the plan debits coincide with university payroll dates and adjust seamlessly with changes to the student account balance. 

Enrollment periods for 2017-18:

  • for fall semester:          Jul 14-Sep 28
  • for spring semester:     Dec 16-Feb 15

Students may enroll in the plan only after they have registered for classes and, after their tuition remission has been entered in the Banner system by the hiring department. The projected debit amount and remaining debit dates will be displayed during the enrollment process.  There is no cost to participate.  Once enrolled in the program, students cannot cancel unless the balance is paid in full.  

The Graduate School, in conjunction with the deans of the eight colleges, have established the Work-Life Grant Program which provides temporary financial assistance to female graduate assistants during pregnancy and childbirth. For additional information, visit the Work-life Grants web page.

Responsibilities of Graduate Assistants

All new GTAs and those GTAs who have not previously attended a GTA workshop are required to attend the annual GTA workshop offered by the Graduate School each fall. Departments should note this requirement on the assistantship agreement form, if applicable, and inform the students about the detailed schedule of the workshop.

Federal and state taxes, if applicable, are withheld from the assistantship stipend check for U.S. citizens. Federal and state taxes are not withheld from fellowship stipends. Non-resident aliens may be subject to withholding taxes on assistantship stipends, depending on whether or not their country has a tax treaty with the United States. These taxes will be debited to the student's account each semester. Students are paid semi-monthly on approximately the first and sixteenth of each month. Students who have summer assistantships but are not enrolled will be taxed at the higher, non-student rate.

Students who receive financial aid awards must notify the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid (OSFA) if they have accepted a graduate assistantship. OSFA calculates funding based on need, as defined by federal regulations. The financial aid award may be processed before a student is aware that he or she will be offered a graduate assistantship. Once the student receives a tuition award or an out-of-state waiver, OSFA, as required by federal and state regulations, may reduce some of the aid it originally offered. In these cases, the student may be billed for an overpayment. Students may be distressed to find out that a portion of the financial aid funds they received will need to be repaid before the end of the semester.

Departments may also find it difficult to fund tuition for a particular student because of an award that has already been made by another source. The department will need to work with the Bursar's Office to resolve the payment of tuition. Since departments are not informed of which students receive financial aid, they should remind graduate assistants of their obligation to report their tuition award to OSFA either in person or by using the Reporting Form.

Unless specified otherwise in the assistantship agreement contract, graduate students on full assistantships are not prohibited from seeking additional employment (restrictions may apply to international students). Students should consult with their academic advisor and/or assistantship supervisor as applicable regarding the fulfillment of their assistantship and graduate study responsibilities. Students must notify the Graduate School about any additional employment, including the period of employment, name and contact of employer, and job title or short description of duties, using the Additional Employment Reporting Tool.

Summer Assistantships

Departments are not obligated to cover tuition for students who have summer graduate assistantships and who choose to take classes. A student does not have to take classes during the summer to be on a graduate assistantship, unless the student is a new international student (in this case the student must enroll because of immigration regulations). If a new, non-international student is accepted for Fall and the department decides to start the student on a graduate assistantship in the summer, the student's admission date must be changed to the applicable summer term before the graduate assistantship can be entered on Banner. The new student does not have to be enrolled in classes. The department is not obligated to pay tuition for a new student in summer.

Students in defending status in the summer may also remain on an assistantship contract until they defend and submit their ETD. The hiring department may opt (but is not obligated) to pay the Start of Semester Defense Exception fee.

Students who hold an assistantship appointment in the summer may also work in wage positions if the assistantship department does not object. Additional wage employment in the summer may be undertaken until August 9. Graduate assistants may also work additional hours during the Winter Break (December 25 through January 10) with the approval of their assistantship department. Combined assistantship and wages hours cannot exceed 40 hours per week.  Summer on-off Rate.

Graduate students can receive health care services at the Schiffert Health Center during the summer under the following conditions:

  • Students taking summer school classes are eligible to pay the summer health fee for each session they are enrolled. Students who pay the health fee have unlimited access to all health care services available at the Schiffert Health Center during the session(s) for which they pay the fee.
  • Students who will not be enrolled but are required by their department or college to be on campus as a part of their academic program of study are also eligible to pay the summer health fee. Documentation from their college is required.
  • Part-time summer school students who elect not to pay the health fee are eligible to pay the daily use charge.
  • Students who are not enrolled in the summer but who paid the health fee for the preceding spring semester and plan to enroll for classes in the fall semester are eligible to pay the daily use charge.

Additional information is available through Schiffert's Health Center web pages.

Performance/Resignation/Termination

Departments are expected to evaluate the performance of graduate students. General university guidelines should be followed to terminate an assistantship for unsatisfactory performance before the end of the appointment. It is advisable to keep written records of any problems and complaints about student performance. In cases of unsatisfactory performance, departments should give notice to students in writing. The notice should include a detailed description of the problem, as well as a timeline and specific expectations for improvement. Graduate assistantship appointments are contingent upon satisfactory performance of assigned duties and continued academic and employment eligibility. Students and departments must inform the Graduate School in writing about the early termination of an assistantship agreement.

Should a student for any reason leave the assistantship appointment before the end of the contract, he/she may be responsible for a portion of the tuition. The table below (found on the second page of the agreement) specifies the student's and the department's tuition responsibility:

This table is based upon the university refund policy and will be used in calculating tuition obligations for students who leave the assistantship appointment before day 38 of the semester.

SEMESTER CLASS DAY

STUDENT OBLIGATION*

DEPARTMENT OBLIGATION**

Prior to first day of classes

100% of tuition & fees

0%

One through eight

90% - tuition only

10% of tuition scholarship

Nine through nineteen

50% - tuition only

50% of tuition scholarship

Twenty through thirty-seven

25% - tuition only

75% of tuition scholarship

After day thirty-seven

0%

100% of tuition scholarship

The comprehensive, technology, and CFE fees are non-refundable and no reduction will be made after the beginning of classes.
*Student responsible for any amount not paid by department.
**Percent of tuition paid by department.