Academic Programs Catalog

Graduate Education

Financial Aid for Graduate Students

Financial aid for graduate students is available in several forms. A number of scholarships and fellowships are awarded each year by the Graduate School to the colleges, and there are many opportunities for graduate assistant appointments for part–time teaching or research. The applicant should refer to the graduate application instruction sheet that accompanies the application for admission for details on applying for financial assistance.

Students already admitted to regular graduate status at Michigan State University and seeking an assistantship or other financial aid should consult the department, school, or college concerned. Since graduate assistantships and fellowships are usually awarded beginning in February for the following aid year, it is essential that applications and supporting documents be submitted in December or early in January to assure adequate consideration. Individual graduate programs may specify an earlier date.


Graduate Assistantships

Graduate assistant is a generic term referring to a graduate student who is supported on a graduate assistantship. Graduate assistants are in one of three categories as they relate to policy in this section: research assistants, teaching assistants represented by the Graduate Employees Union (GEU), and teaching assistants not represented by the GEU.

Graduate assistantships are available only to graduate students who are actively pursuing graduate degree programs and who are making satisfactory progress toward their degrees, including maintaining at least a 3.00 grade–point average. Colleges, departments, or schools may set higher or additional standards. 

Graduate assistants are appointed on a quarter–time, half–time, or three–quarter time basis. There are two appointment periods during the fall and spring:  August 16—December 31 and January 1—May 15.  During each appointment period a graduate assistant's duties to the university require an average of:

  1. 10 hours per week for a quarter–time stipend. 
  2. 20 hours per week for a half–time stipend. 
  3. 30 hours per week for a three–quarter–time stipend.
Summer appointments cover the period from approximately May 16—August 15.  The appointing unit is responsible for informing the graduate assistant of the distribution of duties that are related to the summer appointment.

To the extent that current policies and procedures contain provisions about wages, benefits, or other terms and conditions of employment, they are for teaching assistants included in the collective bargaining agreement between Michigan State University and the Graduate Employees Union.

Research Assistant and Teaching Assistant Not represented by the MSU Graduate Employees Union Collective Bargaining Agreement (GEU)

Assistantship Levels

GRADUATE ASSISTANTS, LEVEL I. Graduate students with the bachelor's degree and less than one year's experience as graduate assistants or as full-support fellows. They conduct research, perform administrative tasks or other supervised duties such as reading and grading papers.

GRADUATE ASSISTANTS, LEVEL II. Graduate students with a relevant master's degree or equivalent and/or one year's experience as graduate assistants or as full-support fellows in the appointing department or school or in a unit considered relevant by the chairperson of the appointing department or school. They conduct research, grade papers, or perform administrative tasks with moderate supervision. Advancement from Level I to Level II is usually routine.

GRADUATE ASSISTANTS, LEVEL III. Graduate students who have successfully completed doctoral comprehensive exams, as defined by the department in which the student is enrolled, and have experience as a graduate RA/TE at Michigan State University, or equivalent. The minimum number of semesters shall be four (4), five (5) or six (6). The definition of equivalent experience as an RA/TE is left to the discretion of the chairperson of the appointing unit, but it is expected that only experience in research-oriented assignments will count toward the six semesters of experience as an RA. (Consistent with current practice, 1/4 time and 3/4 time appointments count the same as 1/2 time appointments, and summer semesters count the same as fall and spring semesters.)


Stipends and Benefits

Stipend levels are subject to yearly change. 

For the latest information, please consult the Human Resources Web site at

Checks are distributed on a biweekly basis. Graduate assistants at any of the three levels may be appointed on a  quarter–time, half–time,  or three–quarter–time basis with an appropriate adjustment in the stipend. Additional benefits, even though the graduate student does not enroll for 10 credits or more, include the following:

  1. Tuition waiver in the amount of 9 credits for fall semester, 9 credits for spring semester, and 5 credits for summer session.  The tuition waiver will be provided during the period of the assistantship, to a maximum of 23 credits per year. For Ph.D. students past comprehensive exams with a summer (only) research assistantship following a spring assistantship, there is a 1 credit non-fringe research assistantship option available
  2. Exemption from out–of–state resident tuition. This exemption applies to a summer session that precedes or follows consecutive fall and spring appointments, regardless of whether the student was previously enrolled at Michigan State University. If the student does not have a graduate assistantship form completed before registering for summer session, they will pay out–of–state resident course fees and tuition. If an appointment form is submitted prior to the middle of the subsequent fall semester, the Office of the Registrar will refund the full amount of out–of–state tuition that the student paid for the summer session.
  3. Specific college or program fees, applicable to all graduate students enrolled in a specific college or program, may apply and are not waived.
  4. Health Insurance. Graduate assistants (domestic and international) are automatically enrolled in a health insurance plan, the premium of which is paid by the university. The plan provides the following coverage:
    a.    Fall appointment only: coverage from August 16 to February 15 of the following year.
    b.    Fall and Spring appointments—coverage from August 16 to August 15 of the following year.
    c.    Spring appointment only—coverage from January 1 to August 15.
    d.    Summer appointment only—coverage from approximately May 16 to August 15.
    Enrolled students may also insure their eligible spouse and/or dependent children (residing with the insured).
    For questions regarding coverage, enrollment or premium payment, contact BCN partners with Blue Water for enrollment and payment, 1-800-287-4103. For questions concerning waiver processing or general information, contact the Michigan State University Human Resources Office at 1-517-353-4434 or 1-800-353-4434, or by e-mail at: The Human Resources Office is located at 1407 South Harrison, Suite 140A, East Lansing, MI 48823 and on the web at; or visit BCN at
  5. Eligibility for treatment at Olin Health Center.

Early Termination or Resignation of Assistantships

If a graduate assistant resigns an assistantship or the assistantship is terminated early during a semester, such that the appointment does not meet minimum duration standards (53 calendar days in Fall and Spring; 46 calendar days in Summer), the student will be assessed tuition for all credits carried, and those who are not Michigan (in-state) residents will be assessed out-of-state tuition.

Additional Benefits, Other Information

Library privileges, intramural and recreative facilities privileges, and eligibility to join the Michigan State University Federal Credit Union.

Eligibility for student discounts on football, basketball, and/or hockey season tickets for themselves and their spouses.

Eligibility for free admission to other regularly scheduled Michigan State University athletic events when presenting a valid student ID card.

Eligibility for student discounts on series tickets to professional performing arts events at the Wharton Center for Performing Arts and Institute for Arts and Culture, including one guest ticket at the student rate.

Exemption from payment of the Social Security tax on the stipend if the student is enrolled for the minimum number or required credits. Stipends are subject to income taxes with few exceptions. The taxability of stipends is subject to review by the Internal Revenue Service. Please call the Payroll Office for more information 1-517-355-5010. Please note that tax laws are subject to continuing revision and students should verify their tax liability each year.


Registration and Credit Load Requirements

Graduate assistants must be registered each semester in which they hold an assistantship.  Specific information on maximum and minimum credit loads is found under the Maximum and Minimum Credits heading in this section of this catalog.

Academic Achievement Graduate Assistantships

These graduate assistantships provide financial support for students who are accepted into a master’s or a doctoral degree program and whose enrollment will enhance the inclusiveness of the student body of the program into which they are admitted. This recruitment program is designed to assist academic units in attracting a cohort of students who have traditionally not participated in graduate programs in their units.


Graduate-Professional Student Scholarships

College of Human Medicine Scholarship Fund

To aid students in the College of Human Medicine.


Ingham County Medical Society

To assist students in the College of Human Medicine.


College of Osteopathic Medicine Scholarship Fund

To aid students in the College of Osteopathic Medicine.


Woman's Auxiliary Wayne County Medical Society

To provide scholarships for needy students in the College of Human Medicine.



A variety of graduate fellowships are available to Michigan State University students. Stipends and sources of support vary widely. In addition to applying for fellowships offered by the university and through the university by outside agencies, students are encouraged to apply for any outside sources of funds for which they may be eligible. Students are encouraged to consult such publications.

You can find a summary by visiting:

Michigan State University annually awards a number of fellowships and tuition scholarships to encourage and assist high-achieving students to pursue study leading to a graduate degree. A recipient of one of these awards must be enrolled in a degree program but is not required to give formal service to the university or to the department or school.

For a student not currently enrolled in a graduate program at Michigan State University, the application for admission also serves as an application for these awards. A student currently enrolled may apply through the respective department, school, or college.


Registration and Credit Load Requirements

Specific information on registration requirements for fellowship recipients is given under Maximum and Minimum Credits heading in this section of this catalog.

Education Opportunity Fellowships

To be eligible for this fellowship, Education Opportunity Fellowship (EOF) applicants must 1) demonstrate a need for financial assistance and have a minimum undergraduate federal loan indebtedness of $25,000, both as determined by the Michigan State University Office of Financial Aid; 2) be a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident of the United States.  Exact awards will vary depending on need.  Students must be in good academic standing meeting department, college, and university standards. Enrollment requirements include a minimum of 6 credits each semester or 3 credits for the summer semester.  Applications are only available between mid-January and mid-March for the next aid year.  Applications must be renewed each year.  Funds are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis until all are disbursed. Students with undergraduate federal indebtedness of $25,000 or greater may qualify for the EOF or Student Aid Grant for Medical Student (SAG); they cannot receive both awards in the same academic year.

Graduate School Dissertation Completion Fellowships

These fellowships allow students to devote full time to writing the doctoral dissertation. The stipend is at the discretion of the college but may not exceed $10,000 for the semester. This fellowships program is for students in the final months of their programs. About 200 fellowships are awarded each year. Application must be made directly to your department, school, or program

University Distinguished and University Enrichment Fellowships Programs

The Graduate School offers fellowship programs that provide financial support for outstanding students who plan to enroll in a doctoral or master of fine arts program. We are particularly aware of the special role that graduate education plays in training the next generation of leaders in academia, government and the private sector.  In assisting MSU achieve its educational mission, our goal is to foster an intellectually vital and inclusive educational community that will prepare graduate students to assume their professional roles in a diverse society. The Graduate School’s recruitment fellowships assist departments and programs in attracting a cohort of students who: have demonstrated academic excellence; articulate their commitment to research goals well matched to department or program doctoral emphasis areas; show evidence of leadership potential or  the capacity to make a distinctive professional or scholarly contribution; contribute to an inclusive educational community, as evidenced in personal history and experience, research goals, or the promotion of understanding among persons of different backgrounds and ideas; have different racial, ethnic, gender, socio-economic, geographic, and disciplinary backgrounds. Visit .

Two kinds of fellowship awards are available:

University Distinguished Fellowships, recognizing academic achievement, research goals, demonstrated leadership potential, and contribution to a diverse educational community.
University Enrichment Fellowships, recognizing academic achievement, research goals, contribution to a diverse educational community, and a record of overcoming obstacles. 

Fellowship recipients beginning study in Fall 2023 will receive a 12-month stipend of $32,000, plus a supplement for health insurance.  In addition, tuition and related fees will be waived up to a maximum of ten credits during fall and spring semesters (up to three credits/semester in final year) and thee to five credits during summer session.  The first and final years are funded by the Graduate School, with no teaching or research service required of the student.  During the second, third and fourth years of support, students receive a departmental assistantship that may require them to assist in teaching or research.  Master of Fine Arts students are jointly supported by the Graduate School and their departments for three years. In addition, a specified number of tuition credits and related fees will be waived during the fall, spring, and summer semesters.