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Minnesota State University, Mankato

Minnesota State University, Mankato
Graduate Studies

Assistantship Policies

Page address: http://grad.mnsu.edu/assistantships/assistantshippolicies.html
Faculty Advising Student

Graduate assistantships provide academically–related employment for eligible graduate students. The three basic types of assistantships are for teaching, research, or program assistance. Teaching Assistants generally assist a professor with teaching his/her courses. Some will teach courses as the instructor of record under faculty supervision. Research Assistants assist faculty with various research projects. Graduate Program Assistants work in a variety of programs and offices throughout the university. Most departments with graduate programs have assistantships available. Section 117 of the IRS code specifies that the tuition reduction for graduate assistants employed in a non-instructional or non-research-related capacity be reported as taxable income.    Application forms for graduate assistantships are available in the College of Graduate Studies and Research and department offices. Applications should be submitted to the department or unit for which the student wishes to work. Students wishing to apply for assistantships in multiple departments or units need to submit a separate application for each.

Resolution Regarding Graduate Scholars, Fellows, Trainees, and Assistants

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

Students are under no obligation to respond to offers of financial support prior to April 15; 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.

Federal Work–Study Graduate Assistantships

Federal Work–Study Graduate Assistantships are available to graduate students who are eligible for financial aid. Students must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the academic year in which financial assistance is needed. Apply online by going to the FAFSA website. Assistance with the FAFSA process is available from Student Financial Services at the Campus Hub, in person at 117 Centennial Student Union, by telephone at 507-389-1866, or email campushub@mnsu.edu.

Applicants for any of the graduate programs who have had experience working in libraries may apply for assistantships in Memorial Library. These assistantships are especially beneficial to new librarians who wish to attain the necessary second Master’s degree before entering full–time employment in a library. Positions exist in a variety of areas throughout the library.

Each year,graduate assistantships are usually available through the following:

  • Office of Admissions
  • Career Development and Counseling Center
  • Centennial Student Union
  • Counseling and Health Services
  • Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Center
  • Office of Financial Aid
  • Office of First Year Experience
  • Pre–Major Advising
  • Orientation
  • Office of International Students
  • Department of Residential Life
  • Student Leadership Development & Services–Learning
  • Office of the Vice President
  • Women's Center

Policy Background

Graduate Assistantships are stipends awarded to assist students in making progress toward their degree. Graduate Assistants provide instructional, research, and/or administrative support to departmental efforts. A graduate assistantship provides the opportunity for a student to practice what is being studied in an applied activity, such as research, teaching, and other sorts of professional practice.

Policy Statement

Graduate assistantships are awarded to full–time students who are fully admitted to a graduate program and who are not on academic warning or academic probation. Appointments are competitive and are determined on the basis of undergraduate and/or graduate grade point average, test scores, letters of recommendation, pertinent experience, educational preparation, interviews, or a combination of these factors. The amount of compensation and terms and conditions of awards will be maintained and published by the College of Graduate Studies and Research.

Requirements

Since the purpose of the award is to assist the student in making progress toward the degree, the maximum time commitment to assistantship activities is normally 20 hours per week (for a teaching assistant, 8–9 semester credits over 2 semesters). Teaching assistants may be assigned extra duties (not to exceed the equivalent of 9 semester credits). In special cases when a student is in the last term of study, additional assignments may be made up to 30 hours per week. For the same reasons, a student must be concurrently enrolled each term for at least 6 graduate semester credits, but not more than 12 semester credits. Summer session appointments require a minimum of 1 graduate semester credit. A student who was assigned a limited number of deficiency courses as a condition of admission may petition the Graduate Dean to accept the deficiency credits toward meeting the minimum credits required for the assistantship. No more than nine undergraduate credits may be covered by the graduate assistant tuition waiver during the entire time a student is employed as a graduate assistant (endorsed by the Grad. Submeet and Confer on 2/16/04).The maximum length of appointment (from all sources of funding) is limited to the normal length of time for completing the degree, in most cases 2 years (a few programs which require more than a minimum of 40 credits have a normal length of 3 years to completion).

Compensation

The amount of the Graduate Assistant stipend is published each year by the College of Graduate Studies and Research. As far as possible, stipends are set to cover the full cost of attending the institution, as determined by the Office of Financial Aid. Stipends are calculated on a full–time equivalent of "20 hours per week." The stipend is subject to State and Federal taxes. Full awards carry a waiver of 18 credits of tuition for Fall and Spring semesters (normally, 9 each semester). Tuition waivers for more than 9 credits each semester must be approved by the Graduate Dean. No tuition waiver is provided for Summer Session appointments. Partial awards are permitted and may carry a corresponding reduction in tuition waiver. Students may hold multiple concurrent appointments in different departments or administrative units, as long as the total of all appointments does not exceed the maximum allowed. At no time will a graduate assistant be employed concurrently as an adjunct faculty.

Students who hold an assistantship are eligible for Minnesota resident tuition rates during the time of their award, and over the Summer if they held an award the previous Spring semester, during the Summer, or have accepted an award for the following Fall semester.

Terms and Conditions

Prior to the beginning date of the award, graduate assistants will receive a letter summarizing their general duties, stipend, and times and flexibility of duties. During the first week of duty, graduate assistants will be given an initial orientation to their assigned duties by their supervisor, including a description of specific duties, standards for evaluation of performance, and training and other resources available.

Appointment

The award of a graduate assistantship is made by a letter of offer. Acceptance must also be in writing, and constitutes an agreement between the student and the department that both are expected to honor. Resignation from an appointment before the end of the term initially specified should also be in writing, and should be delivered to the department as early as possible. Students who resign or are released from their appointment prior to the mid–point of a semester will lose the tuition waiver for that term.

Termination

Graduate assistants are expected to meet the standards of performance described at their appointment, and to maintain satisfactory academic progress toward their degree. Failure to meet either set of standards can lead to termination of the assistantship. Although, immediate termination may be invoked for serious misbehavior or failure to perform, under normal circumstances of poor performance the following guidelines will be followed:

  1. Written notice of warning, with a two–week trial period; followed (if necessary) by
  2. Written notice of termination, effective immediately.

Copies of this correspondence will be sent to the Graduate Dean and to the department chairperson (for departmental appointments) or to the unit’s director (for administrative unit appointments). The notice of termination must also be sent to the Office of Business Affairs, and to the Office of International Students (if appropriate). All compensation accrued prior to receipt of the notice of termination in the Business Office will be charged to the unit responsible for direct supervision of the student.

Both written notice of warning and written notice of termination may be appealed. In case of appeal, the student will send to the department chair or the unit director a copy of the written notice and a letter stating the errors of fact or interpretation, which is the basis of the appeal. The chair or unit director must investigate the appeal and deliver a written response within one week. The appeal may be carried one step further, in writing, to the College dean (for appointments in academic departments) or to the appropriate vice president (for appointments outside the academic departments). The dean or vice president will consult with the Dean of the College of Graduate Studies and Research, and their decision will be final. The initiation of an appeal does not extend the trial period or the termination of duties.

Policy Implementation

In support of the terms and conditions outlined in this policy, the following procedures are followed.

  1. The policy addresses the tuition waiver associated with graduate assistantships. To be eligible for resident tuition during the academic year, the signed Work Authorization Form must be received in the College of Graduate Studies and Research no later than the tenth instructional day in a semester in which the appointment is effective.
  2. The policy addresses the number of hours of work that can be expected from a graduate assistant. A graduate assistant can typically be hired only for work completed when the university is in session. Exceptions to this policy must be approved by the Dean of the College of Graduate Studies and Research.
  3. The policy addresses the appropriate process to follow if the assistantship is terminated by the hiring unit. A student who believes s/he is being unfairly treated as a graduate assistant in any other areas unrelated to termination as a graduate assistant may initiate an appeal that is similar to the grade appeal process detailed in the Graduate Bulletin.

The appeal process begins with the student discussing the issue with the supervisor. If no resolution is achieved, the student should submit a written petition to the department chairperson or director of the office, and send a copy to the supervisor. The chairperson or director will respond to the petition in writing within two weeks. If no satisfactory resolution is achieved, the student may appeal in writing to the dean of the college or appropriate vice–president, who will respond in writing.

If a satisfactory agreement has not been reached, the student will submit a written statement to the Dean of the College of Graduate Studies. The Dean of the College of Graduate Studies in some cases may convene a committee to serve in an advisory capacity. This committee will be comprised of three members of the Graduate Sub–Meet and Confer and a graduate student.

If such a committee is formed, the chairperson of the committee will respond to the Dean of the College of Graduate Studies within two weeks of the formation of the committee. The student and the supervisor shall be permitted to make a rebuttal to the written record compiled by the committee. This must be completed within two weeks. The Dean of the College of Graduate Studies and Research will then make a final decision concerning the situation, and the decision of the Dean will be communicated in writing to all concerned parties. This decision is final.

Written petitions should describe the nature of the problem, the remedy sought, and a statement that an attempt was made to resolve the issue at the appropriate levels. If witnesses are named in the petition, they should receive copies of the petition.

Guidelines for Externally Funded Graduate Assistantship Stipends*

Graduate Assistantships funded by sources other than state appropriations or tuition and fees may be funded at a higher rate than the current maximum for university funded Graduate Assistantships. Assistantships eligible for higher stipends include those funded by (a) external grants or contracts; (b) private donations; or (c) revenue funds (e.g., room and board, ticket sales). In such cases, stipends will be determined on a case–by–case basis in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies and the appropriate dean, division head, director, or department chair—taking into account national averages for stipends in the academic discipline (as published by the National Postsecondary Student Aid Survey [NPSAS] or another comparable source) or the relevant administrative area (as published by ACUBO, ACUHO, or another comparable data source).


*Approved by the Graduate Sub Meet and Confer on January 28, 2008
*Approved by Academic Affairs Council on January 30, 2008