What is a Graduate Assistantship?
A graduate assistantship is an academic award that carries a $6,000 stipend and a waiver of tuition and fees for the extent of the appointment. Graduate assistants are students who are matriculated and enrolled full-time in a graduate program. Graduate assistants work on campus up to twenty hours per week, September 1st to June 30th. The Graduate Assistantship waiver may result in a reduction of individual student loan eligibility and/or increased tax liability.
Applying for a Graduate Assistantship
Graduate assistantships are awarded competitively at the time of admission to the Academic Program, based on materials submitted with your graduate admissions application. In order to be eligible for a graduate assistantship a student must complete the graduate admissions application and submit all supplemental materials required by the program applied to by March 15 for most programs. (Applicants should check with Graduate Admissions for programs with earlier deadlines). In addition, the applicant must indicate on the application that he/she is applying for a graduate assistantship. Applicants must also have an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0 and meet all additional minimum requirements for the program of choice. New graduate assistantships are available only to students applying for admission for Fall 2017
*Please be advised that the Graduate Assistantship waiver often results in the reduction of student loan eligibility and/or increased tax liability.
Once you complete your graduate admissions application and indicate your interest in a graduate assistantship, your application will be available for review by the appropriate academic department. Most graduate assistantships will be offered at the time of admission or no later than April 1st.
Graduate assistants are appointed to work closely with an assigned faculty, staff, or administrator in a variety of settings. Under the direction of a supervisor, you will be expected to assist in carrying out the goals and mission of the unit. You must work up to 20 hours per week in your appointed department. Work is to commence on September 1, or date of assignment, and end on June 30 of each academic year, with the exception of assignments that may entail work commencing a few weeks before the Fall semester and end correspondingly earlier.
Graduate assistantships are awarded for a period of two years for most graduate programs (3 years for the Art MFA and the PsyD). Students must enroll full time and remain in good academic standing so that they can complete their degree within the duration of their assistantship in order to remain eligible for the award
Taxability of Tuition & Fee Waivers for Graduate Assistants
Graduate Assistants who are not classified as research or teaching assistants are subject to tax on the value of tuition and fee waivers. This is required under federal law (Internal Revenue Code section 127). The rule applies to the value of all tuition and fees waived in excess of $5,250 per calendar year (there is no tax on amounts under and up to $5,250).
During each semester in which a student is a Graduate Assistant, the amount of taxable waiver will be calculated based on the exact number of credits and fees waived less the allowable annual exclusion of $5,250. The taxable amount will be spread over the period that stipends will be paid, and will increase the amount of tax withheld from each stipend payment. The exact rate of taxation will depend on each individual’s personal information as stated on form W-4 (completed by each GA at the beginning of the Assistantship). Depending on the waiver amount and the W-4 information on file with the Payroll Department, it is possible that a GA’s net stipend pay could be significantly reduced.
At the end of each calendar year, both the taxable amount of waivers and the taxes withheld are reported on the GA’s form W-2. The taxes withheld are credited to the individual’s tax account with the IRS, so that upon completion of the annual personal tax filing, these taxes will be credited to the individual’s overall tax liability. Depending on overall circumstances, if overall taxes are overpaid the individual would get a refund from the IRS.
Waivers awarded for summer terms are also taxable, however there are no stipends during the summer to deduct the taxes from. In these cases, the taxes for summer waivers will be deducted from the subsequent fall stipends if applicable. If the student is not attending in the subsequent fall (or not receiving a stipend), the University will not be able to withhold relevant taxes however the amount of waiver will be included in the student’s taxable income reported on form W2 at end of calendar year. In some cases, the student could owe taxes. This situation could also apply in other non-summer terms for students receiving waivers but not receiving a stipend.
For additional information about the Graduate Assistantship process, please contact Lissette Gonzalez at 973.720.3093.