Approximately 1,900 teaching and research assistantships are available to qualified graduate students during the regular academic year in various departments within the university. The assistantships typically require 13 to 19.6 hours of service per week. During the fall and spring terms, graduate assistants may not work more than 19.6 hours per week, all jobs considered.
There are benefits eligible and non-benefits eligible assistantships. Benefits eligible assistantships provide a tuition waiver and partial waiver of the student health insurance premium non-benefits eligible do not.
A graduate assistantship provides financial support for a graduate student for a set period of time during which the student is expected to pursue activities towards the advanced degree. To hold a graduate assistantship, a student must be admitted to a department or area with a specific graduate degree objective and must be enrolled during the period of the assistantship.
Types of Assistantships
A teaching assistantship in an academic department provides a stipend to a student who is typically assisting in the department’s teaching program. A graduate teaching assistant is required to spend 13-19.6 hours per week (.33 to .49 FTE) during the academic year, engaged in teaching activity (grading, assisting a professor with a course, etc.). The teaching assistant is expected to continue working towards the advanced degree while being a teaching assistant.
The Graduate Council recommends that all departments require graduate teaching assistants to participate in workshops for teaching assistants. Graduate assistants may be expected to provide their academic adviser with a written report of their academic progress at the conclusion of the period for which the teaching assistantship is awarded.
All international graduate students who wish to be employed as teaching assistants at UNL must attend the Institute for International Teaching Assistants. The Institute is an intensive training program held the last week of July and the first week of August. For more information on the availability of assistantships, contact the graduate committee of the appropriate department.
Because of the potential for the exploitation of graduate students, any assignment of responsibilities, such as teaching a course, must be associated with a fair and reasonable compensation. This principle precludes a graduate student from “volunteering” for any significant service to the department without an appropriate stipend.
A research assistantship provides a stipend to a student who is typically assisting a professor with a research project, enabling the graduate student to work towards an advanced degree. Work required by the graduate research assistantship that is not directly related to the student's own program shall not exceed 13-19.6 hours per week (.33 to .49 FTE). Students receiving research assistantships may be expected to provide their academic adviser with a written report of their academic progress at the conclusion of the period for which the research assistantship is awarded.
Other graduate research assistantships provide a stipend to a student who is assisting an academic or nonacademic department with a wide variety of functions. Work required by the graduate research assistantship that is not directly related to the student's own program shall not exceed 13-19.6 hours per week (.33 to .49 FTE). Students receiving such assistantships in non-academic departments may be expected to provide their academic adviser with a written report of their academic progress at the conclusion of the period for which the graduate assistantship is awarded.
To hold a graduate assistantship a student must be admitted to a department or area with a specific graduate degree objective and must be enrolled for credit during the tenure of the assistantship.
Individual departments make assistantship appointments. Students interested in being considered for assistantships in their major should indicate that on the Application for Admission. Further inquiries should be directed to the graduate chair or the chair of the student's prospective department.
The responsibilities of the graduate assistant and the method by which the student will be evaluated should be provided in writing to the student by the immediate supervisor at the beginning of the assistantship.
Tuition remission of up to 12 hours per semester is provided as a benefit of eligible assistantships. Students holding eligible assistantships are provided basic individual student health insurance coverage with related benefits. The University subsidizes part of the student health insurance premium for eligible graduate assistants.
Eligibility for assistantship benefits must meet all of the following criteria:
- A continuous appointment for four full months within the semester dates.
- The stipend meets the minimum salary level set by the University.
- The assistantship or combination of assistantships in one or more departments totals at least 13.33 hours per week employment.
If a graduate assistant resigns or their assistantship is terminated during the semester before four full months of consecutive service (e.g., 120 consecutive days within the semester dates, August-December OR January-May) all benefits will be lost and the student will be responsible for the total tuition payment and health insurance premiums.
Departments may differentiate graduate teaching assistantship stipends by graduate student status (master's or doctoral-level, first year or experienced) or by number of hours of work required by the assistantship. Within departments and within each level of differentiation, stipends should generally be equivalent. Guidelines used to determine stipend levels should be available to students through the department or graduate committee chair.
Summer Assistantship Appointments
If a graduate assistant, while on an appointment during both semesters of the preceding academic year, was paid a stipend meeting the minimum qualification for summer tuition, the student is not charged tuition for the first 6 hours during the summer sessions. If such a stipend met the next level of qualification, the student is not charged tuition for the first 12 hours during the summer sessions. (Specific dollar amounts are available each year from the Office of Graduate Studies.)
A student on a non-benefits eligible graduate assistantship is charged tuition at resident rates if the stipend received is equal to, or greater than, the total of the amount set by the University for the relative summer session.
Hiring Graduate Assistants
General Responsibilities Associated with Graduate Assistantships
Each department or unit shall establish its own documented procedures for recruitment, selection, retention and dismissal of graduate assistants in accordance with UNL graduate policy and Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity guidelines. These procedures shall be made available to each graduate student and posted in the department. Individual departments may establish a required minimum course load for funded students.
Departments must provide students with an official signed offer letter, informing them of assistantship expectations, responsibilities, and compensation. A graduate assistant’s duties are assigned by the departmental chair/head, graduate committee chair, administrative supervisor, or others. Graduate assistants are expected to be assigned relevant professional work that may include, among other tasks, teaching or assisting in a course (under the supervision of a director or mentor), grading for a course, working in a department-sponsored laboratory or instructional center, assisting a professor on a research project, professional conference development, tutoring, or development of administrative skills. All projects must be supervised by a member of the graduate faculty or administrative staff. No graduate assistant should be assigned to a project which is primarily clerical or housekeeping. A portion of any project may have clerical elements, but all projects should incorporate decision-making, judgment, analysis and evaluation skills.
Although students on graduate assistantships may not have employment exceeding 19.6 hours per week from all sources both on and off campus during the period of the assistantship, there is no limit to time spent on studies and research relating to the advanced degree. Recipients of graduate assistantships may qualify for additional funding through competitive fellowship awards. No additional service or work requirement is associated with fellowship awards.
The Council of Graduate Schools Resolution Regarding Graduate Scholars, Fellows, Trainees and Assistants
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is a signatory to the Council of Graduate Schools policy regarding the offering and acceptance of financial aid. Specifically, students are under no obligation to respond to offers of financial support for the coming academic year prior to April 15. 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.
Evaluating Graduate Assistants' Performance
Assistantships without a fixed term specified in the initial letter of offer may, at the discretion of the department, be renewed if the following criteria are met
- funding is available;
- the student is making satisfactory academic progress; and
- the student's assistantship performance is judged to be satisfactory by his or her supervisor.
Where the number of years of funding is within those specified in the initial letter of offer, an assistantship must be renewed if these four criteria are met.
The faculty member or staff person who supervises the assistant's work should conduct a timely written evaluation of the student's performance and provide a copy of that evaluation to the student and to the chair/director for placement in the student's file. This evaluation should take the following criteria into account
- prompt, efficient, and accurate completion of assigned tasks;
- ability to work independently once tasks are explained;
- ability to analyze problems and find solutions;
- good student evaluations for instructional and tutoring assignments in courses, laboratory and clinical settings;
- cooperation with mentor, director, and other assistants; and
- professional and ethical behavior in all assigned tasks and duties including course studies and research.
Evaluations of performance shall not be influenced on the basis of sex, age, disability, race, color, religion, marital status, veteran's status, national or ethnic origin, or sexual orientation, nor shall they be influenced by students' exercise of their First Amendment freedoms of expression and association.
Academic Freedom of Graduate Teaching Assistants
The academic freedom of graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) is not necessarily coextensive with that of faculty. All GTAs are engaged in supervised teaching or instruction. Supervisors are responsible for defining the nature, scope and manner of instruction to be used for each course. Supervisors should communicate the extent to which GTAs have discretion to introduce additional material. Graduate teaching assistants should follow the instructions of the supervisor. Graduate teaching assistants may not be penalized for expressing their own views on matters within the scope of the course, provided they adequately represent these views as their own.
In interpreting teaching evaluations, supervisors shall make every effort to distinguish legitimate critiques of the course from negative evaluations due to a) prejudice against the GTA on the basis of race, sex, sexual orientation, religion or other protected status, or b) disagreement with viewpoints expressed by the GTA or by students in the class.