Graduate Student Funding Guidelines

The following provides guidelines to departments and units on campus for graduate student funding.

There are several ways to fund a graduate student:

Graduate Assistantships

Role, Purpose, and Work Expectations

Assistantships serve to facilitate graduate students in the prompt and successful completion of an advanced degree program and to provide work experience in a setting under the supervision of a faculty or administrative mentor.

Graduate Assistantship Levels

Full-time Graduate Assistantship

A full-time graduate assistant (GA) will work, on average, 20 hours a week (equivalent to a half-time employee). Therefore, they should not be scheduled for more than 20 hours of work each week (see work assignments below). Full-time graduate assistantships must include full tuition, fees, health insurance, and a stipend. Full-time graduate assistants must be enrolled full-time (9 credit hrs.) unless they are at late-stage (dissertation stage), or in the last semester of their master’s program or a master’s student taking thesis hours. Enrollment is not required during the summer. Over the course of a semester, a full time GA will work at most 300 total hours. This is based on a 15-week semester. Starting Fall 2024, Health insurance will be covered for full-time GAs who have been contracted for at least 4 months. 

Part-time Graduate Assistantship

A part time graduate assistant (GA) will work, on average, 10 hours a week. Therefore, they should not be scheduled for more than 10 hours of work each week (see work assignments below). Part-time graduate assistants should receive at least half tuition, fees, and a stipend.  Health insurance is not currently available for part-time graduate assistants.  Part-time assistantships are available to students enrolled in at least 3 hours or for those at dissertation/thesis stage who are enrolled in at least one credit hr. Enrollment is not required during the summer.Over the course of a semester, a part time GA will work at most 150 total hours. This is based on a 15-week semester.


  • Tuition and fees must be fully covered for all full-time Graduate Assistants. Departments can limit the student’s enrollment to courses required for their degree. Departments are not obligated to pay for tuition and fees for courses that are not required for their program.
  • The health insurance premium must be covered for full-time Graduate assistants.
  • Graduate Assistants should be hired either as full-time (20hrs) or part-time (10hrs).
  • At a minimum, all Graduate Assistants should be paid the equivalent of $15 dollars an hour. This is a considered to be a “living wage.” Based on this, full-time graduate assistants should be making, at a minimum, $4,500 a semester (20 hrs. a week, 15-week semester). This is a minimum only. Competitive stipends that provide the ability for a student to focus full-time on their studies and their professional development (which is the purpose of their work as a graduate assistant) are much higher. Departments should research peer institutions for benchmarks. 

 Types of Graduate Assistantships

There are three types of assistantships: research, teaching, or administrative.

  • Graduate Assistants for Research (GAR)
    • perform duties in support of university research, which may or may not relate to the students’ thesis/dissertation. GARs are specific awards. The student assists with a range of duties including library research, preparation of reports, field studies and laboratory research. This opportunity provides an excellent means for students to learn new techniques and methods as well as expand their knowledge by association with research-oriented responsibilities, whether employed within the student’s academic discipline or in another department.
  • Graduate Assistants for Teaching (GAT)
    • work under the direct supervision of graduate faculty members and are assigned duties related directly to instruction, such as assisting in the preparation of lectures, leading discussion sections, conducting laboratory exercises, grading papers, and keeping class records. Advanced graduate students who have completed 18 graduate credit hours in their teaching disciplines may be given primary responsibility for teaching an undergraduate course, including student assessment and assignment of final grades. GTAs may not be assigned primary responsibilities for teaching and student assessment in courses approved for graduate credit. Departments utilizing GTAs must provide orientation and training for students who will have any type of instructional or teaching assignment noted above. All graduate students planning to serve as GTAs must participate in a departmental orientation and training program before functioning in the GTA role. Students whose native language is not English may be required to take and pass the SPEAK test if the scores they submitted for admission are not at a sufficient level for teaching (see https://www.memphis.edu/iei/speaktest/index.php for details).
  • Graduate administrative assistants (GAO)
    • aid faculty and staff members with administrative functions, and appointments are available in academic and non-academic units. Duties vary, depending on administrative needs of the unit making the award. Such work may be clerical, computer-based and/or editorial in nature. To allow maximum professional development, the student should be given the opportunity to apply his/her academic skills to the assigned tasks and develop new administrative skills. This an hourly paid position.

All graduate assistantship positions should have a job description describing the duties and other job-related responsibilities.

Graduate Assistantships with Stipend ONLY (no tuition)

            This option should be used for summer graduate assistants only or in rare cases where the department is offering a research stipend for a short period of time.  Students who are hired as a GA for the first time during the summer for 20 hrs. a week are not eligible for health insurance. But if the student was on a full-time GA in the previous spring semester, the spring coverage includes the summer.  Students cannot be put on a summer GA contract if they have never been enrolled.

Contract length

Department funding offers vary in length. Departments might offer a student a full-time graduate assistantship for five years, for instance, noting that renewal depends on the availability of funding and only if the student is making progress and peforming well in their duties. Offers of funding are executed through semester contracts. Therefore, the standard contract length is 4 months. 

 Graduate Tuition Scholarship

            If you would like to use graduate student funds to pay for some or all of the tuition and fees for a graduate student, you can do so by using the graduate scholarship process.  Note: graduate tuition scholarships are different from donor funded scholarships. Donor funded scholarships are established with donor agreements and funded by donors. Graduate tuition scholarships are funded by department/college funds allocated for graduate student support. 

Guidelines for graduate tuition scholarships

  • These are merit scholarships. The student should not be asked to perform service to receive a merit scholarship. (Donor scholarships may have service requirements as the donor may have specified this in the agreement).
  • The graduate school understands that disciplines vary, and some service is required in certain disciplines. Service should be tied to the program requirements rather than the scholarship and should be tracked independently of the scholarship.

Regular Student Employee (RSE)


 We are providing resources below to assist with the creation and management of eContracts and Graduate Scholarships, such as a Banner Access form and a chart that helps break down the difference between the types of contracts for graduate students.

  • Banner View Only Access (Fill in PDF form that needs to be completed, signed with supervisor approval then returned to the USBS office via email at usbs@memphis.edu - SUBJECT LINE: GA BANNER ACCESS REQUEST)
  • Reminder: If a student is hired to perform research and teaching functions, the effort should be split accordingly in the contract, with the appropriate % split going to a research program code and an instruction program code.  If that student is receiving tuition assistance, that same % split should apply to the tuition portion.
  • Students with teaching duties must have a GTA contract. There are some exceptions to this but they are rare. We are currently developing a process to ensure those cases are documented and in banner.  
Frequently Asked Questions
  Graduate Assistantships Graduate Scholarships Graduate Student Workers
Considered a GA? Yes No No
Award type? Tuition & USF and Stipend

Tuition & USF (partial or full tuition & USF)

Hourly or Monthly Pay
Considered an employee? Yes No Yes
Work Component? Yes No Yes
Will the central pool cover the Non-Resident tuition premium? Yes (for Doctoral ONLY) No No
Can departmental GA Pool funds be used? Yes Yes Yes
Is scholarship refundable to student? N/A No N/A