Managing Graduate Assistantships
About Graduate Assistantships
Graduate assistantship policies and procedures have been compiled in a single document and approved as university policy No. 6210 by the Board of Visitors at its August 2019 meeting.
Time-sensitive communications about assistantship management policies, best practices, and deadlines are also posted in the Assistantship Management Bulletin. More details are also available in the Graduate Student Funding Guide, accessible to VT employees only.
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.
- Program-level exception requests to the 12-18 credit enrollment requirement must be submitted to the Graduate School by an authorized representative of the program
- 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, but no later than the standard assistantship end date of the summer term of their defense.
- 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 to fund the award 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
- Students with GPA below 3.0 (hiring departments may seek exception on behalf of the student; see procedures under Banner Appointment Entry)
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.
For the duration of the assistantship (except summer), students who are paid less than $3368/month on assistantship stipend will receive tuition remission for the in-state tuition, applicable program fees, technology fee and library fee, in proportion 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 $3368/month or more may need to pay their tuition from their assistantship stipends. Payment of summer tuition is optional. See the Tuition Remission Process for further details.
Undergraduate students in a bachelor/master program who are in their last semester of the undergraduate level may 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 to fund the tuition award through a manual process.
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 currently be on a GA/GTA/GRA and earn at least $2000 on assistantship stipend between Aug 10-Dec 24
- Winter: Must currently be on a 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 currently be on GA/GTA/GRA and earn at least $2000 on assistantship stipend between Dec 25-May 9
- Summer: Must have been on a GA/GTA/GRA in immediately preceding spring semester and earned at least $4000 on assistantship stipend between Aug 10-May 9
An out-of-state waiver is not given if the student is not currently holding an assistantship position.
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.
In recognition of students living and studying away from the Blacksburg campus, comprehensive fees may be reduced for students enrolled in an all virtual schedule or who have only research hours/ independent study not located on campus. Students must certify that they will reside more than 50 miles from the Blacksburg campus for the entire semester. More information can be found on the Bursar website. To be considered, this form must be submitted by the last day to add courses each semester.
All out-of-state students must pay the Commonwealth Facility and Equipment (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:
- The department was late in entering the tuition award, which caused a late fee penalty;
- The automatic out-of-state waiver was applied late because the department was late in entering the NOAEPAF.
- 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.
Contract Creation and Banner Entry
The graduate assistantship contract form is a legal document that has been approved by University General Counsel. A sample of the Graduate School Assistantship Contract can be found here.
All assistantship agreements must be generated using the university's Graduate Contract System. Contracts will be stored electronically and retained for 5 years. A copy of the paper form does not need to be sent to the Graduate School.
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. The Graduate Contract System must be used for creating new contracts. Access the system through onecampus.vt.edu, Graduate Contracts, to create, review or approve contracts. If you would like to schedule a training session for a group within your department, email email@example.com. If you encounter any problems with the tool, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can request the termination of a contract issued in error by completing this online request.
Standard assistantship start and end dates have been established to ensure that graduate assistants receive semi-monthly payments during the entire period of the semester or academic year (9 paychecks a semester or 18 paychecks during the academic year). Whenever feasible and possible, assistantship appointments should cover the entire semester or academic year, since assistantships are often the sole source of income for students.
The disbursement of some assistantship benefits, such as the health insurance subsidy, is optimized for full assistantships with standard start/end dates of Aug 10-May 9. One-semester appointments equal 9 pay periods. Two-semester appointments equal 18 pay periods. A graduate assistantship appointment may be entered in Banner at any time with any start date 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 and the actual date when the student reports to work. This facilitates the proper distribution of assistantship benefits that are prorated by pay periods. In the I-9 employability verification process you will record the actual start date of the work, which may be later than the contract start date.
Standard Banner Start and End Dates for assistantship appointments:
Academic Year: Aug 10 - May 9
Fall Semester: Aug 10 - Dec 24
Spring Semester: Dec 25 - May 9
Summer I: May 10 - Jun 24
Summer II: Jun 25 - Aug 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. Departments are advised to enter Academic Year or Fall Semester appointments by August 1 to ensure proper billing and 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 the 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. You must include an explanation in the comment section regarding the exception request. The explanation must indicate the department's awareness of the low GPA and verify that arrangements are in place to ensure that the student will be able to improve his/her GPA. 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. See Dean DePauw's letter regarding the April 15 Resolution.
Benefits for Graduate Assistants
See section in Stipends, Tuition, and Fees above.
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 for 2019-2020 begins
- for fall semester: Mid July
- for spring semester: Mid December
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.
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.
Departments are not obligated to cover tuition for students who have summer graduate assistantships and who choose to take classes. Summer enrollment is not required for assistantship eligibility, unless the student is a new international student admitted for the summer (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, non-international student does not have to be enrolled in classes.
Students are eligible for an out-of-state tuition waiver in the summer if they earned at least $4,000 on assistantship stipend between Aug 10 - May 9 and were on assistantship in the spring previous to the summer term in question.
Students in defending status in the summer may also remain on an assistantship contract until the end of the session in which they defend (standard contract end date for Summer I is 6/24; for Summer II 8/9.) 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. 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.
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.
Graduate assistantship appointments are contingent upon satisfactory performance of assigned duties and continued academic and employment eligibility. Departments are expected to evaluate the performance of graduate students on assistantships and provide regular feedback and opportunities for improvement. Should performance issues arise, follow these guidelines:
- Keep written records of any problems and complaints about student performance.
- Meet with the student to discuss specific expectations and set a reasonable timeline for improvement. Document the meeting and specific expectations in writing and share it with the student.
- If improvement is not achieved as expected by the deadline, give notice of early termination to the student in writing.
- Inform the Graduate School in writing about the early termination of an assistantship agreement. Departments should submit termination requests to the Graduate School electronically.
Except in cases where the student is withdrawing from the university for family/medical reasons, if a student or department terminates the assistantship prior to the completion of the academic semester, the remission of tuition and E&G fees shall be calculated in four week increments, with each quarter of tuition earned by the completion of four full weeks of work and full remission earned only if the student completes the assistantship (16 full weeks or more in a semester). Other benefits, such as health insurance subsidy and out-of-state tuition waiver, will be recalculated based on eligibility requirements, and the student will be billed for the remaining balance.
The table below details the tuition obligations for students who leave the assistantship appointment before the semester is complete.