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Policy: Graduate Assistantships 


Date: 06/07/12    Policy ID: PROV-001    Status: Final   


Policy Type:    Executive Vice President & Provost   
Contact Office:    Executive Vice President and Provost (Office of the)    
Oversight Executive:    Executive Vice President and Provost    
Applies To:    Academic Division    
Table of Contents:     Policy Statement
  1. Types of Assistantships
    1. Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs)
    2. Graduate Research Assistants (GRAs)
    3. Graduate Administrative Assistants (GAAs)
  2. Qualifications
  3. Supervisory Responsibilities of the Institution
  4. Appointment Restrictions
  5. Notice of Reappointment
  6. Qualified Assistantships and Tuition Remission
    1. Tuition Remission and Multiple Sources of Pay
    2. Tuition Adjustment
  7. Health Insurance Subsidy
  8. Grievances
Procedures
  1. Appointment to a Graduate Assistantship
  2. Processing Wages for an Assistantship
  3. Disciplinary Suspension or Termination
  4. Grievance Procedure
Reason for Policy:    

Defines the different types of graduate assistantships, specifying the qualifications for appointment and the conditions under which tuition remission and tuition adjustment must or may be awarded in conjunction with a qualified graduate assistantship.

Policy Summary:    
Definition of Terms in Statement:    

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 J-Term).

Student-Related Terms:
Advanced doctoral student: A student enrolled in a doctoral degree program who has completed all degree requirements except the dissertation.

Graduate degree-seeking student: A student enrolled in any graduate degree-granting program at the University, including those students enrolled in one of the University’s two professional schools (Law, Medicine).

Graduate non-degree-seeking student: A student who has received permission to enroll and is registered for graduate coursework at the University but is not enrolled in one of the University’s degree-granting programs.

International Student: A student who enters the United States on a F-1 or J-1 visa; international students are considered out-of-state students for the purposes of calculating tuition and are subject to a special international fee.

Visiting graduate student: A non-degree-seeking student who is enrolled in a graduate degree-granting program at another institution.
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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), graduate research assistants (GRAs), and graduate administrative assistants (GAAs).  (For further detail see Section 1: “Types of Assistantships” below.)

Assistantship-Related Terms:
Assistantship wages: Funds paid to a student in exchange for instructional, administrative, or research services in a graduate assistantship; wages are not a form of stipend (see “ 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.
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Forms of Aid:

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

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

Fellowship: Unearned aid (no work or repayment requirement) awarded to graduate students, other than those in the Darden School of Business, the McIntire School of Commerce, the School of Law, or the School of Medicine (see “Scholarship” below). Fellowships may consist of both direct and indirect forms of aid.

Scholarship: Unearned aid (no work or repayment requirement) awarded to undergraduate students in all schools and graduate students in the Darden School of Business, the McIntire School of Commerce, the School of Law and the School of Medicine. Scholarships may consist of direct or indirect forms of aid.

Stipend: An amount given directly to a student as part of a fellowship or scholarship 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 payments typically are provided over a period of time, e.g. ten monthly payments 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).
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Other Terms:

General funds: General tax revenues that are appropriated by the General Assembly for the use of the institution. These funds are restricted in various ways by the state and, in some cases, have been restricted further by the University or the state legislature to support aid for particular programs. (See also “Non-general funds” 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. 1 The University allocates a portion of its non-general funds (i.e., tuition revenue) toward several types of graduate financial aid, including tuition remission, tuition adjustment, University grants, research remission, and the graduate student health insurance subsidy. (See also “General funds” above.)

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.
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1 For information regarding the use of non-general fund revenues (i.e., tuition revenue) as published in the Commonwealth’s current Appropriations Act, contact the University Budget Office.
   
Policy Statement:    

Graduate assistantships provide a supervised opportunity for graduate students to gain experience in teaching, research, or administration while receiving wages. In most cases, graduate assistants do not replace faculty in the classroom, but enrich the level of instruction offered to undergraduate students.

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 the policy on “Health Insurance Subsidy for Qualified Graduate Students.”)

Graduate students who are on leave or on continuous enrollment status are not eligible for graduate assistantships.
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  1. Types of Assistantships:
    1. Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs):
      Effective July 1, 1988, the Board of Visitors defined a full-time graduate teaching assistantship 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 an instructor on the academic non-tenure-track faculty, not a graduate teaching assistant. Instructors are not eligible for the qualified health insurance subsidy, tuition remission, or tuition adjustment; they are governed by the policy on “ Employment of Non-Tenure-Track Faculty.”

      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.
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    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.
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    3. Graduate Administrative Assistants (GAAs):
      Usually restricted to students enrolled in the PhD program in higher education in the Curry School of Education, GAAs are training in administrative fields, are enrolled in an internship program, and, as part of their assistantship, receive administrative assignments in various University offices related to their fields of study. GAAs are always assigned a full assistantship.
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  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 (SACS), 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 SACS, 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 the policy on "Financial Aid to Non-Degree-Seeking Students").
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    2Faculty Credentials: Guidelines, SACS, 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.)
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  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 only the equivalent of 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.).
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  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.
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  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 and GAAs, 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 "a" below, “Tuition Remission and Multiple Sources of Pay").
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    1. Tuition Remission and Multiple Sources of Pay:
      If a student is “split-funded,” 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 must be consistent with 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 which does not qualify for tuition remission (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.
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    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, GAA, 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.
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  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, GAA, or GRA. (For more information, see the policy on the "Health Insurance Subsidy for Qualified Graduate Students.")
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  8. 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 related to discrimination or harassment may also be pursued through the Office of Equal Opportunity Programs (EOP). In the event that the graduate student files an Equal Opportunity Programs (EOP) complaint related to the decision being challenged under this policy, the grievance must still be filed within ten (10) calendar days and may, at the discretion of the dean, be held in abeyance pending the conclusion of the EOP process. In the event that the dean is the subject of the student’s EOP complaint and grievance, the grievance should be filed within ten (10) calendar days with the executive vice president and provost.

    The University strictly prohibits retaliation directed against a person for making a complaint of discrimination or harassment or assisting or participating in the complaint process. Retaliation may exist even when the underlying complaint is without merit.
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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.
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  2. Processing Wages for an Assisantship:
    GTAs, GAAs, 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).

    GAAs are assigned the job title of Graduate Instructor B. This title applies to all GAAs regardless of their administrative assignments or range of duties.

    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 should be entered with a 0.5 FTE in the wage payroll system, with normal hours of twenty hours per week. Students holding a half-time assistantship should be entered with a 0.25 FTE, with normal hours of ten hours per week. Students may not be entered with an FTE of 0.25 or greater unless they are serving in a qualified assistantship.
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  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.
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  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 compelling 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.
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Related Information:    

Equal Opportunity Programs Complaint Procedures

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

Health Insurance Subsidy for Qualified Graduate Students

Student Health

Wage Authorization

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Policy Background:    
Major Category:    Executive Vice President & Provost Policies   
Category Cross Reference:    
Process:    
Next Scheduled Review:    06/07/15   
Approved By, Date:    Executive Vice President and Provost, 06/07/12    
Revision History:    
Supersedes (previous policy):     

PROV-001, Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs)
PROV-008, Tuition Remission Policy for Graduate Teaching, Administrative, and Research Assistants

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