Teaching Assistant and Research Assistant Offers

Owner
Associate Dean for Graduate Education

Key Contacts

If you have questions, please contact the Assistant to the Associate Dean for Graduate Education.

Applicability  

Graduate Assistants.

Policy Purpose and Description  

Both new and continuing graduate assistants must receive a letter making the offer of appointment. The letter must specify the position title, the level of appointment (percentage time), the effective dates of appointment, salary, teaching or work schedule (if known), and the departmental representative to be contacted for information regarding the appointment and associated benefits. The letter must inform the candidate that the terms and conditions of the appointment as outlined in the Graduate Assistant Employment Manual.

Definitions  

N/A

Procedure

Offer Letters: All Graduate Assistant appointments must be made using the model letter of appointment provided annually by CLAS. A model letter for departmentally generated fellowship appointments is also made available annually. See Forms below.

The Council of Graduate Schools, in its 1990 Resolution Regarding Graduate Scholars, Fellows, Trainees, and Assistants, states that students “are under no obligation to respond to offers of financial support prior to April 15.” Departments must not set earlier deadlines for acceptance. The DEO or DGS should download copies of this Resolution and enclose one with each offer of an assistantship, scholarship, fellowship, or traineeship made to a prospective graduate student.

Continuing graduate assistants must receive the offer of appointment by April 15 for summer session or for appointments beginning in the fall semester and by November 1 for appointments beginning in the spring semester. Departments must make a good faith effort to offer appointments by these deadlines. If a position becomes available after a deadline, the offer should be made as soon as possible.

Departments must inform teaching assistants of their tentative course assignment using the chart provided in the model letter of appointment unless an alternate chart has been approved by the Associate Dean for Graduate Education.

Levels of Appointment: The normal graduate appointment is one half-time equivalent (HTE) and is expected to require an average of about 20 hours of work per week over the semester or academic year. Appointments of less than one HTE entail a proportionate reduction in work hours and in stipend. The amount of effort required of the graduate assistant must not exceed the level of appointment. View a chart showing the percentage time appointment and standard hours of work at each HTE level.

Standard appointments include quarter-time (25%), third-time (33%), three-eighths-time (37.5%), and half-time equivalents (50%), as well as five-eighths (62.5%), two-thirds (66.7%), and three-quarters time (75%). If, however, the graduate appointment is for a percentage-time that is greater than one half-time equivalent (50%), the request for permission to appoint at greater than half time must be made by the DGS or DEO to both the Associate Dean for Administrative Affairs in the Graduate College and the Associate Dean for Graduate Education in CLAS. The request should include a justification for the overload as well as an explanation of why the additional percentage of effort would not negatively influence the graduate student’s progress toward the degree. See the policy on Teaching Assistant and Research Assistant Overload Assignments for additional information.

Best Practices: Teaching Assistantships are intended primarily to support doctoral students and master’s students earning terminal degrees in the field (such as the MFA). PhD students should be recruited with the expectation of being supported at 50% for at least 5 years unless the time to degree in the discipline is characteristically shorter. Likewise, students earning the DMA, DNP, MFA, and other similar terminal degrees should be recruited with the expectation of being supported at 33% to 50% for the number of years typically required to complete the program. MA students must not be offered teaching assistantships while doctoral students go unsupported or are poorly supported.  

Doctoral students in good standing who are currently unfunded and have not yet taken comprehensive exams should be placed on appropriate funding before offers are made to prospective students.  

PhD students who seek and receive prestigious external fellowships to support their research should not be penalized by forfeiting support at the conclusion of the external fellowship period.  

In those larger units in which the TA allocation is subdivided according to degree programs, sub-tracks, or specializations, the practices listed above should be uniformly applied within the respective degree program, sub-track, or specialization.

Minimum Stipends: The UE/COGS collective bargaining agreement sets minimum stipend levels for graduate assistants and minimum salary increments for graduate assistants reappointed from the previous year. (See the Graduate Assistant Employment Manual, Introduction and Wages.) The stipend amount must be specified in the offer of appointment.

A department may pay more than the minimum stipend and may increase a continuing graduate assistant’s stipend by more than the minimum increment, if the department has the necessary funds. The department may also apply a salary differential that reflects differences in job duties between groups of graduate assistants.

A minimum stipend for graduate fellows is not established under the collective bargaining agreement.

Medical and Dental Insurance for Graduate Assistants: Under the terms of the Graduate Assistant Employment Manual, the University will make monthly contributions for eligible graduate assistants’ health and dental insurance to specified insurance plans. The University will also make contributions for medical and dental insurance for eligible dependents and domestic partners of graduate assistants.  

To receive the University’s contribution, a graduate assistant must be appointed at least quarter-time (.5 HTE or 25%) for at least one semester. Graduate assistants appointed for one semester will receive one-half of the University’s contribution each semester.

Tuition Rates: Non-resident graduate students with at least quarter-time assistantships (.5 HTE) will be assessed resident tuition and fees for the terms during which the appointment is held and for any adjacent summer session. (Spouses of graduate assistants may request the resident tuition rate at the Office of the Registrar.)

This policy applies to those appointed to Graduate College fellowships, but not to those who hold traineeships under training grants.

Verification of Oral Communication Skills for New TAs: Before offering a teaching assistantship, the DGS or DEO is responsible for verifying the oral communication skills of the candidate, whether or not the candidate’s first language is English. This verification may take place through letters of recommendation, a telephone interview, or an interview in person. For new graduate students whose first language is not English, the College recommends that teaching assistantships be offered only to those whose scores on the written TOEFL test are 600 or (preferably) higher. (A score of 250 on the computer-based test is equivalent to a score of 600 on the written test.)  

Commitments to New Teaching Assistants: Offers to new TAs should either specify a guaranteed commitment for fall semester, renewable for spring pending the mid-term review of oral communication competence and other competencies, or should indicate that a negative review at mid-term would result in reassignment (perhaps at a lower stipend), a reduced level of appointment, or even cancellation of the commitment (particularly if the assistant is not a graduate student in the department of appointment).  

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences or the Graduate College will find replacement duties and provide for continuation of the contract only if such language is included in the offer letter. Otherwise, the department will be responsible for making the alternative arrangements.

Written Acceptance of Offer: The department obtains a written acceptance by asking the candidate for a signed and dated copy of the offer letter.  

Forms  

2020-21 TA Template for an Offer Letter for Graduate Assistants

2020-21 RA Template for an Offer Letter for Graduate Assistants

2020 Summer TA Template for an Offer Letter for Graduate Assistants

Fellowship Offer Letter Template

Frequently Asked Questions  

N/A

Related Information

Administrative Manual- Graduate Appointments

Revision History