Chapter 8: Assistantships and Fellowships

There are many policies which govern assistantship and fellowship appointments, including those set by the Office of the Provost and other governing bodies on campus.  Because students are frequently also employees, they need to be aware of policies set by Academic Human Resources, and the University’s agreement with the Graduate Employee’s Organization (GEO). Students should consult and be familiar with campus policies set by the following units as they pertain to assistants and fellows.

Academic Human Resources – Administers University policies for employees, including graduate employees, hours of work, stipends and leaves.

Division of Research Safety – provides online training that is mandatory for all employees or students working in research labs that have or use biological, chemical, or radiological materials. This training should be completed within the first month of activity in such a lab.

Graduate Employee’s Organization (GEO/IFT/AFT/AFL-CIO) – recognized officially as the exclusive bargaining unit for all graduate assistants (GAs) and most teaching assistants (TAs). For assistants represented by GEO, wages, hours, terms and conditions of employment are included in their Agreement with the University of Illinois (PDF). Teaching assistants not represented in the bargaining unit include those whose assistantships are not waiver-generating, and teaching assistants who are teaching for the first time in one of the following units: Animal Biology, Biochemistry, Cell and Structural Biology, Chemistry, Germanic Languages and Literatures, Microbiology, Plant Biology, and Psychology.

Office of the Provost – requires that graduate teaching assistants attend training before beginning any teaching appointment. Before the start of classes, departments either conduct training programs for all new teaching assistants or require attendance at the Graduate Academy for College Teaching (which includes sessions about language and culture that meet the University's policy requirements for all non-native speakers of English before they teach in a University of Illinois classroom). For more information, see the Center for Teaching Excellence Web site.

University Ethics Office – administers an annual online ethics training program to all University of Illinois employees. The University of Illinois Ethics Office contacts students via their official University e-mail account during a pre-announced time period with individual login instructions for the training.

Vice President of Human Resources – administers an annual online Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act (ANCRA) training program to all University of Illinois employees. The Vice President of Human Resources contacts all employees via their official University e-mail account during a pre-announced time period with individual login instructions for the training.

A. Assistantship Policies

1. Application, Evaluation and Selection Process 5. Stipends
2. Eligibility Requirements 6. Employment Leaves
3. Enrollment Requirements 7. Teaching of Graduate Level Courses
4. Appointment Level 8. Renewal, Resignation, Graduation, and Termination of Appointments

The various departments of the University appoint students as teaching (TA), research (RA), pre-professional graduate (PGA) or graduate assistants (GA). Academic Human Resources has defined the duties associated with each type of assistantship. Graduate student assistantships and their accompanying tuition waivers provide graduate students with financial resources that help defray the expenses associated with completing their graduate degrees. Students who hold assistantships experience educational and professional benefits. They gain further instruction in techniques in their fields, hone their research skills, acquire pedagogical experience necessary for an academic career, develop professional skills, and may have collegial collaboration with advisers that result in presentations or publications.   

  1. Application, Evaluation and Selection Process: Academic departments and administrative units of the campus appoint graduate students as assistants. Therefore, applicants to the Graduate College request consideration for an assistantship by checking the appropriate box on the application form, and continuing students apply directly to the appropriate department according to its procedures.

    The evaluation and selection process for an assistantship appointment is conducted by the department. The documentation related to this process must be retained. See section 3.a. of the Tuition Waiver Policy for details. The primary considerations are the appropriateness of the student's abilities to the duties to be performed, together with the relevance of those duties to the student's own graduate education . Each unit that makes assistantship appointments is responsible for ensuring that the graduate students are qualified for the appointment received.

    Assistants whose academic progress and service record have been satisfactory may be eligible to have their appointments renewed, subject to the availability of funds and the need for services. Departments have differing policies on the length of time they will fund students with assistantships and waivers.
  2. Eligibility Requirements: To receive and hold an assistantship, a student must:
    • be admitted as a degree-seeking student in good standing (Chapter 3.B.3),
    • be admitted to a non-degree program under an Exchange agreement that includes an assistantship as part of the terms of the agreement.

    Students admitted on Limited Status or on Probation may not hold assistantships until they are in Good Standing. Students on Probation, admitted on Limited Status, or admitted as non-degree students must petition each term to request to hold an assistantship.
    Assistantships cannot be offered to students who have graduated unless the student successfully requested to change curriculum and will continue in another program.   

    Assistantships cannot be offered to individuals prior to the admission term. If a unit has an interest in providing a summer assistantship to a person admitted for fall, the unit must recode the application to indicate summer as the term of admission. 

    To be eligible for a Teaching Assistantship appointment individuals must be orally proficient in English. Illinois law requires that all instructors at the University of Illinois be orally proficient in English. Campus has established a minimum acceptable score for approved English proficiency exams that is required of all non-native speakers of English serving in instructional roles. There are no exceptions. This means that students applying for teaching assistantships in foreign language programs are not eligible to seek an exemption from the requirement for demonstrated English proficiency. Some campus units may require higher scores. In addition, campus policy requires those who pass the proficiency exam to attend the Graduate Academy for College Teaching and have their classroom teaching monitored closely by their departments during the semesters in which they teach. Additional information may be obtained from the Center for Teaching Excellence.

  3. Enrollment Requirements.
    1. Fall and Spring All Students. In the fall and spring terms, students receiving assistantships must be registered for the semesters of appointment.
    2. Summer New Students. Students admitted for summer term who receive assistantships must register for the summer term.
    3. Summer Current Students. If a student receives a summer assistantship (the period between May 16 and August 15), and the student was registered for the immediately preceding spring semester or has registered for the following fall semester, the campus policy does not require the student to register for the summer term. However, the student’s department may require the student to register in summer.
  4. Appointment Level:
    All assistantship appointments must be processed to reflect the actual percentage and length of time the employee works. The appointment level is based on the appointing unit’s determination of the amount of time it should normally take to perform the assigned duties over the full appointment period including orientation and training. Hours of work are separate and distinct from the time required for an assistant’s own academic course work.

    International students may receive a maximum of a 50% assistantship per government regulations, and should check with ISSS for additional rules
  5. Stipends:
    The University establishes a campus minimum stipend for assistants and the terms of the University Agreement with the Graduate Employees Organization (GEO) (PDF) stipulates the minimum for represented assistants. Units may pay above the minimum, and stipend amounts vary from unit to unit. Assistantship stipends are taxable, and state and federal taxes are withheld from stipends. Assistants whose enrollment is deemed to be less than half time will also have Federal Insurance Contributions Act tax (i.e., the Social Security and Medicare deductions) withheld from their stipends. 

    In addition, the stipend of students holding Graduate Assistantships (GAs) or Pre-Professional Graduate Assistantships (PGAs) will be subject to withholding tax on the value of tuition and service fee waivers that exceed $5,250 per calendar year.  Each semester, GAs and PGAs whose tuition and fee waivers to date are valued at more than $5,250 will have withholding on the amount exceeding $5,250 applied to their stipend payments. See taxability of tuition waivers associated with assistantships and fellowships (chapter 7 section D.3.). 
  6. Employment Leaves:
    Assistants are eligible for holidays, sick leave, parental and bereavement leave. See graduate employee information regarding leaves posted on the AHR site for full information. Questions about leave policies should be directed to the Office of Academic Human Resources at 333-6747 or 807 South Wright Street, Room 420. 

  7. Teaching of Graduate Level Courses:
    Teaching assistants may not, either intentionally or by default, be given sole responsibility for instruction of courses or sections of courses at the 400- or 500- levels or for the assignment of final grades in such courses (except 400-level course sections in which enrollment is limited to undergraduates). Teaching assistants may only assist the responsible instructor in grading, laboratory supervision, and similar activities for courses at the 400- or 500-level. Infrequent lecturing is permissible. Departments requesting an exception must provide the dean of the Graduate College with a letter explaining the special circumstances that justify the exception, including the qualifications (expertise in subject, nearness of date on which the doctorate is expected, and so forth) of the student who is proposed as the teacher (see guidelines). Exceptions are rarely granted. A student is not allowed to enroll in a course in which he or she is a teaching assistant. 

  8. Renewal, Resignation, Graduation, and Termination of Appointments:
    Assistantships are ordinarily assigned on a semester-by-semester or academic year-by-year basis. An appointment remains in effect only if the student maintains good academic standing, makes satisfactory academic progress, and provides satisfactory service. Assistants are eligible for reappointment at the sole discretion of the unit based on past performance of the assistant, availability of funds and the determination of the need for services. Departments are encouraged to communicate with assistants concerning plans or prospects for new appointments. Departments have differing policies on the length of time students may hold assistantships and sometimes limit the total number of semesters an assistant may serve. Many departments require that teaching assistants obtain and maintain certain teaching standards in order for their assistantships to be renewed. It is essential for the student to be aware of the appointing unit's policy and to plan accordingly.

    A  student who resigns a waiver-generating assistantship appointment or whose appointment is canceled before service is rendered for at least three-fourths of the academic term (91 days during a spring or fall semester, 41 days in summer term, or 21 days in summer 1 term for TA appointments) loses the accompanying tuition and fee waiver. This means that the student would be required to pay the full amount of appropriate tuition and fees for that term. There are two exceptions detailed in Chapter 7.D.1.h.

    Students with assistantship appointments (RA, TA, GA PPGA) are eligible to hold their assistantships through the end of the semester in which they deposit if the end date of the appointment, when offered and accepted, was the same or later than the deposit date. For example, a student with a spring appointment processed to end May 15 may hold the assistantship through May 15, even if the student deposited the thesis anytime between January 1 and May 15.  This does not obligate the student to continue the assistantship, and the campus policy permits students to resign their assistantships and retain their waivers, if they complete all degree requirements for graduation within seven calendar days of the resignation, as detailed in Chapter 7.D.1.h.  For students with academic year assistantship appointments, their assistantship would end at the end of the semester in which they deposit and may not continue into the next semester.

    An assistantship appointment may be terminated during the term of the appointment. The assistant must be provided with written notice and an opportunity to respond to the department head prior to termination.  For more information about procedures for terminating an assistantship appointment, see the Office of Academic Human Resources. Assistants with questions about their appointments and benefits may also contact the Office of Academic Human Resources. Teaching assistants and graduate assistants may also consult the GEO Agreement with the University of Illinois (PDF).


B. Campus Fellowship and Traineeship Policies

1. Registration for Fellows and Trainees 5. Taxability of Stipend
2. Award Periods 6. Taxability of Tuition and Fee Waivers
3. Concurrent Awards 7. Thesis Deposit/Graduation for Fellows
4. Concurrent Appointments  

Fellowship appointments are reviewed in the Graduate College.

Students who are:

  1. Admitted on limited status due to grade point average,
  2. Admitted on limited status due to bachelor's degree not comparable to that at this university, or
  3. On academic probation

may not hold fellowships or traineeships until they are in good academic standing. Non-degree students are not eligible for fellowships or traineeships.

A fellowship is defined as an award providing a stipend for living expenses at the established minimum or higher and demanding no services in return. Fellowship awards count against student loan eligibility. In questionable cases, the Graduate College will decide whether an award is a fellowship.

Traineeships are research fellowships that are awarded to provide educational training in particular disciplinary areas and provide a stipend for living expenses. Traineeship awards count against student loan eligibility. In questionable cases the Graduate College will decide whether an award is a traineeship. 

The full tuition and fee policy for fellows and trainees can be found in chapter 7.D.
Fellows with questions about this policy should contact the Graduate College Fellowship Office at

  1. Registration for Fellows and Trainees:
    Fellows are required to register during each semester of the appointment. Students receiving courtesy waivers are not required by the Graduate College to be enrolled full-time in the terms in which they receive a courtesy waiver.
  2. Award Periods:
    The standard award period for an academic year fellowship is August 16 to May 15. The standard award period for a fall fellowship is August 16 to December 15; the standard award period for a spring fellowship is January 16 to May 15.
  3. Concurrent Awards:
    Fellows are prohibited from holding two major awards concurrently (fellowship, traineeship, grant, tuition payment award or comparable support from any government agency, state, federal or foreign, or from any foundation, corporation or similar organization). Any award offer should be reported immediately to the Graduate College Fellowship Office, where the determination will be made whether the two awards may be held concurrently.
  4. Concurrent Appointments:
    Unless otherwise restricted by campus policy or the granting agency or unit, fellows may, at the discretion of their department and with the prior approval of the Graduate College, carry an assistantship or graduate hourly appointment of up to 50 percent time. Any offer should be reported to the Graduate College Fellowship Office, where the determination will be made whether the appointment can be held concurrently with the fellowship. Information about guidelines for concurrent appointments for trainees is posted online.  
  5. Taxability of Stipend:
    Fellowship stipends may be subject to income taxes. For U.S. citizens, permanent residents and foreign national resident aliens for tax purposes, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has ruled that universities are not responsible for withholding or reporting income taxes on fellowship payments. Taxability of the fellowship payment is a matter between the fellow and the IRS. Therefore, no income taxes are withheld from fellowship payments. Fellows do not receive a Form W-2 for their fellowship income nor does the University report the fellowship payment to either the state or federal government. For more information on the taxation of fellowships, consult IRS Tax Topic 421 - Scholarship and Fellowship Grants.

    The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requires that universities withhold taxes from the fellowship payments to international students on temporary visas who are classified as non-resident aliens for tax purposes. International students may be able to claim a treaty benefit that exempts the fellowship payment from income tax withholding. All students on temporary visas must schedule a tax status review appointment with the University Payroll Service Center to determine their tax residency status and whether they qualify for tax treaty benefits. At this appointment, University Payroll determines residency and tax status classification. Fellowship stipend payments will be taxed at the highest possible rate until after the tax status review process is completed. For additional information and links to tax forms, see the Tax Information Web page. For more information on taxation for international Fellows, consult IRS Publication 519: Tax Guide for Aliens (PDF).
  6. Taxability of Tuition and Fee Waivers:
    For information about the taxability of tuition and fee waivers associated with fellowships, see the Tuition Waiver Policy.
  7. Thesis Deposit/Graduation for Fellows:
    Students with fellowship or traineeship appointments must notify the Graduate College Fellowship Office in advance of thesis deposit as it may result in a change in the terms of the fellowship award, including termination.

    For students who are depositing a thesis, the fellowship end date is determined considering multiple factors. These include:
    • degree conferral date
    • deposit deadline
    • deposit date
    • policies of the fellowship sponsor
    • original award period
    • payroll processing dates

    This may mean that the fellowship would end effective the date of deposit.

    For each degree conferral date there is a window of time within which a student may complete the deposit process and keep a fellowship or traineeship until the end of the standard award period for that semester, as described below.

    The deposit window of time begins on the doctoral degree final exam deadline date and ends on the deposit deadline date for the degree being conferred. Degrees are conferred in May, August and December. See the academic calendar at for conferral dates. An exception to the fellowship end date policy may occur when a student deposits a master’s thesis, but continues as a doctoral student with funding approval from the sponsor. In all cases, the Graduate College Fellowship Office determines the fellowship end date.