Payroll Policies

PR06 Graduate Assistants

Policy Status: 

Active

Policy Steward: 

Corporate Controller / Payroll

Contents:

PURPOSE:

To state the Graduate Assistant Policy of the University.

TYPES AND SALARY RANGES:

Graduate assistantships are of three types: quarter-time, half-time, and three-quarter-time. The expected duration of assigned tasks is the same for all graduate assistants within the same type. Thus, for all quarter-time graduate assistants, irrespective of stipend, 10 hours of regular work per week are expected; for all half-time assistants, 20 hours; and for all three-quarter-time assistants, 30 hours. A semester normally consists of 18 full weeks, and extended summer session 14 weeks. Appointments are to be made at one of several grades in consideration of experience and qualifications of the individual. Refer to the Table of Stipends for Graduate Assistants and the Penn State Graduate Degree Programs Bulletin for further information.

Within any department or other administrative unit of the University, there shall be the same pay for the same work for graduate assistants regardless of the field of study in which the student is enrolled. This policy shall not preclude a scale of stipends based on merit, seniority or degree candidacy.

ELIGIBILITY:

Graduate assistants must be enrolled at Penn State as graduate students. More specifically, since assistantships are provided as aids to completion of advanced degrees, assistants are expected to enroll for credit loads each semester that fall within the limits indicated in the table below. Maximum limits on permissible credit loads are indicated in order to assure that the student can give appropriate attention both to academic progress and assistantship responsibilities. These considerations give rise to the table of permissible credit loads below.

OFFER OF APPOINTMENT:

Every Graduate Assistant shall be offered his or her appointment each year in writing, using a standard form, the Terms of Offer of a Graduate Assistantship, together with an individual letter of transmittal. The letter will indicate any extensive duties other than professional and preprofessional they will be called upon to perform.

RESPONSIBILITIES:

A graduate assistant may assist in classroom or laboratory instruction, in research or in other work. The tasks assigned to a graduate assistant often are identical in nature to those required for the advanced degree sought. If the duties are identical in nature to those required for the advanced degree sought, it must be noted in the Terms of Offer of a Graduate Assistantship, the individual letter of transmittal and on the appropriate IBIS appointment, reappointment or change form. Additional compensation is paid to a graduate assistant by the University for additional hours of work only with special,advance approval of the administrative head of the academic unit in which the assistantship is held, and of the chair of the student's graduate academic program, and provided that such compensation is not for additional hours of work on the assigned assistantship duties.

LENGTH OF APPOINTMENTS:

The appointment may be for the summer session or one or two semesters and must terminate on or before the end of the spring semester in any fiscal year. When an appointment will terminate before the end of the spring semester, the appointee should be informed of this when offered the assistantship.

HEALTH INSURANCE BENEFIT:

International Graduate Assistants are required to have health insurance coverage for themselves and their dependents in the United States. For domestic Graduate Assistants, health insurance is optional. The University provides a health insurance benefit as part of the assistantship contract. The University will pay a percentage of the annual premium for the Penn State Student Health Insurance Plan. The remaining percentage will be automatically deducted from the student's assistantship stipend. The University will not supplement, nor will a payroll deduction be made, for insurance policies other than the Penn State Student Insurance Plan.

International Graduate Assistants who have adequate alternate medical coverage and who do not wish to be enrolled in the Penn State Student Health Insurance Plan must submit a waiver application. In order to be granted a waiver, alternate plans must meet certain standards as established by the University Student Insurance Committee. This Committee will approve or disapprove the waiver application.

International Graduate Assistants who do not apply for a waiver will be automatically enrolled in the Penn State Student Insurance Plan.

(NOTE: Applications for a waiver demonstrating adequate alternate insurance must be submitted on a yearly basis each fall.)

Domestic Graduate Assistants will automatically be enrolled in the Penn State Student Insurance Plan. Domestic Graduate Assistants who do not wish to be enrolled in the Penn State Student Insurance Plan must decline the insurance. Dependent health insurance coverage for domestic Graduate Assistants must be submitted on a yearly basis each fall.

For further information, contact the Student Insurance Office, 814-865-7467, or see "Graduate Assistant and Graduate Fellow Health Insurance Plan" on the University Health Services website.

FORMS TO BE COMPLETED BY AND FOR GRADUATE ASSISTANTS:

A graduate assistant is appointed by completing an "NAPP/GFSA" in IBIS. Each appointment is approved, based upon the budget administrator's recommendation and certification of eligibility by the Dean of the Graduate School.

In accepting an appointment as a graduate assistant, the recipient is required to complete the following forms:

  1. Employee's Withholding Allowance Certificate - Form W-4. Also, see Policy PR13
  2. Employment Eligibility Verification (INS Form I-9).
  3. University Intellectual Property Agreements.
  4. Salary Deposit Request.

SUBMISSION OF FORMS FOR THE APPOINTMENT OF GRADUATE ASSISTANTS:

The Employee's Withholding Allowance Certificate (W-4) and Salary Deposit Requests are attached and submitted together to the Financial Officer.The forms are required in the Payroll Office before the "GFSA" is approved and processed electronically.

Appointments are to be submitted in accordance with stipends authorized in the Table of Stipends for Graduate Assistants.

SUBMISSION OF FORMS FOR THE REAPPOINTMENT OF GRADUATE ASSISTANTS:

The "GRAD" is submitted with the block "Reappointment" marked. It is not required that a new Employee's Withholding Allowance Certificate (W-4) be completed if the graduate assistant's status (i.e., number of withholding exemptions, local earned income tax, address and/or name) is unchanged, providing that the graduate assistant's original appointment has not been terminated for more than a year.

​CREDITS THAT MAY BE SCHEDULED:

The privileges of graduate study are the same for all graduate assistants within the same type. The table that follows shows the number of credits that normally may be scheduled for each semester or session.

Credits that May be Scheduled
Permissable Credit Loads Fall/Spring Summer
Graduate Assistant - Quarter-Time 9-14 5-7
Graduate Assistant - Half-Time 9-12 4-6
Graduate Assistant - Three-Quarter-Time 6-8 3-4

The credits specified are the number which the appointee is ordinarily expected to carry. To provide for some flexibility, moderate exceptions to the specified limits may be made in particular cases. The credit limits specified above may only be increased or decreased in exceptional cases for a specific semester or summer session by permission of the assistantship supervisor, the student’s academic adviser, and the dean of the Graduate School (requests should be submitted for the dean’s approval via the Office of Graduate Enrollment Services). It is expected that:

  • The credit load and the service load are properly balanced in each semester and the total credit load over a period of time conforms with the specified limits.
  • The total number of credits scheduled during the interval of appointment is consistent with the type of appointment.
  • The student is assigned no more than the normal work load during the first semester/session as a graduate student at the University, thus permitting him or her to be primarily a student during this period.

EVALUATION AND PERFORMANCE:

Each graduate assistant shall be supervised and assisted in assigned tasks until he/she gains experience and skill enabling the individual to take responsibility. Each graduate assistant shall have his or her work evaluated at least once each year, and the supervisor shall discuss with the individual how well he/she performed during the appointment period.

PAYMENT OF STIPENDS:

All graduate assistant appointees are paid monthly. Direct salary deposits shall be mandatory and a condition of hire.

See the Schedule of Graduate Assistant Pay Dates, for pay dates and the portion of the stipend paid each month of the appointment.

Payments made in June for Summer Session are pre-payments against the following year's budget.

RATES CHARGED TO FUNDING SOURCES:

Graduate Assistant tuition will be charged to sponsored agreements at an average in-state rate.

Flat rate dissertation fees will be charged to a sponsored agreements for assistantships.

Tuition coverage through the Tuition Assistance Program is not available during any period for which the student is appointed on an assistantship.

CHANGES:

All changes to the appointment are accomplished by submitting an IBIS"GRAD."

TERMINATION:

All graduate assistant appointments are terminated automatically upon expiration without submitting termination forms; however, early terminations must be made by submitting an IBIS "TRMN/GFST."

The amount of final pay for an early termination is to be determined by subtracting the amount of stipend paid to the graduate assistant from the number of weeks of service rendered to the date of termination. If additional days are involved, the daily rate of 1/7th of the weekly rate applies. 

FURTHER INFORMATION:

For questions, additional detail, or to request changes to this policy, please contact the Payroll Office.

Effective Date: March 29, 2012
Date Approved: March 27, 2012
Date Published: March 29, 2012 (Editorial changes, August 20, 2014)

Most Recent Changes:

  • August 20, 2014 - Editorial changes. Clarifications in SUBMISSION OF FORMS FOR THE APPOINTMENT OF GRADUATE ASSISTANTS and PAYMENT OF STIPENDS sections to reflect current operations. Addition of policy steward information, in the event that there are questions or requests for changes to the policy.

Revision History (and effective dates):

  • March 29, 2012 - Revisions have been made to the ELIGIBILITY and CREDITS THAT MAY BE SCHEDULED sections, clarifying details that pertain to these categories.
  • September 19, 2011 - Editorial changes made to HEALTH INSURANCE BENEFITS, clarifying contact information, if further information is needed.
  • March 24, 2005 -
    • In RESPONSIBILITIES section, added verbiage for proper completion when the tasks assigned to a graduate assistant are identical in nature to those required for the advanced degree sought.
    • In the HEALTH INSURANCE BENEFIT section, added verbiage that distinguished benefits of international Graduate Assistants and domestic Graduate Assistants.
    • Changed fall/spring credits for half-time Graduate Assistants from 8-11 to 9-12.
    • Editorial changes made throughout the policy, where applicable, to remove references to the General Forms Usage Guide
  • March 6, 2003 -
    • Provisions moved from Policy BT03 to this policy:
    • Payments made in June for Summer Session are pre-payments against the following year's budget.
    • Appointments are to be submitted in accordance with stipends authorized in the Table of Stipends (Appendix 5 of the General Forms Usage Guide).
    • Credits that may be scheduled by half-time graduate assistants increased from 8-11 to 9-12.
  • May 22, 2001 -
    • Under the RESPONSIBILITIES section, changed the advance approval requirements from "dean of the college where the student holds the assistantship" to "administrative head of the academic unit in which the assistantship is held, and of the chair of the student's graduate academic program."
  • January 24, 2000 -
    • Mandatory direct deposit of pay.
    • Added link to Penn State Graduate Degree Programs Bulletin.
    • Changed term 'earned tuition grant-in-aid' to 'Tuition Assistance Program'.
    • Revised RESPONSIBILITIES section.
    • Changed 1/4 time fall/spring credits from 11-14 to 9-14
  • December 3, 1996 - Removed references to several defunct forms (Loyalty Oath and Affirmation, and Alien Information Request); changed title "Senior Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School" to "Dean of the Graduate School."
  • April 4, 1994 - IBIS ASST form reference replaced by NAPP, GFSA, GRAD, TRMN, and GFST.
  • November 22, 1993 -
    • HEALTH INSURANCE BENEFIT section added.
    • Alien Information Request Form and Salary Deposit Request added as required forms to submit.
    • Effective November 1, 1993, direct salary deposits shall be mandatory and a condition of hire for anyone beginning employment on or after that date.
    • Provision added for salary advance for first monthly payroll.

    .

  • October 1, 1993 - Added Intellectual Property Agreement as a required form to be completed by a graduate assistant.
  • May 22, 1991 - The Assistantship and Fellowship Stipend Form replaced by the IBIS ASST form: Under ELIGIBILITY, added provisions for candidates to have health insurance.
  • April 12, 1988 -
    • Added Employment Eligibility Verification Form (INS Form I-9) to FORMS TO BE COMPLETED section.
    • Removed section TUITION REMISSIONS EDUCATION ASSISTANCE PLAN.
    • At locations other than UP, references to the "Bursar" should be read as Financial (or Business) Office.
  • March 27, 1987 - "Employee's Withholding Exemption Certificate" change to "Employee's Withholding Allowance Certificate"; added lengthy section TUITION REMISSIONS EDUCATION ASSISTANCE PLAN.
  • April 18, 1985 -
    • Under section TYPES AND SALARY RANGES, "summer session 10 weeks(or extended session 12 weeks)" changed to " extended summer session 12 weeks."
    • "Dean of the Graduate School" changed to "Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School."
    • Credits for 1/4, 1/2, and 3/4 time graduate assistants now identified for fall or spring semester.
    • Credits for summer added as follows: 1/4 time = 5-7; 1/2 time =4-6; 3/4 time = 3-5.
  • July 25, 1983 -
    • Removed section PRIVILEGES FOR GRADUATE STUDY GRANT-IN-AID and replaced with section RATES TO CHARGE FUNDING
    • Provisions of new section include: tuition will be charged to sponsored agreements at an average in-state rate, effective summer session 1984; flat rate dissertation fees will be charge to sponsored agreements for assistantships effective fall semester 1983; earned tuition grant-in-aid will not be available after summer term, 1983.
    • "Business Manager" changed to "Director of Business Services."
  • April 15, 1983 -
    • Term "changed to "Semester".
    • Budget Executive signs Assistant and Fellowship Stipend Form instead of dean or administrative officer.
    • 1/4 time Graduate Assistant changed from 7-9 credits to 11-14 credits.
    • 1/2 time graduate Assistant changed from 5-7 credits to 8-11 credits.
    • 3/4 Time Graduate Assistant changed from 4-5 credits to 6-8 credits.
    • All graduate assistant appointees are paid monthly instead of 6 equal installments per term.
    • The total credit load over a period of time must conform with the specified limits.
    • Under section PRIVILEGES FOR GRADUATE STUDY GRANT-IN-AID, deleted the phrase " The additional grant-in-aid may not be accumulated."
    • Changed "application for Earned Extra Grant-In-Aid" to Application for Tuition Grant-In-Aid."
  • June 1, 1981 - The Assistantship and Fellowship Stipend Form and Employee's Withholding Exemption Certificate are to be submitted to Financial Officer (and not to Budget Office); at Commonwealth Campuses references to the "Bursar" should be read as Financial (or Business) Office. Reference to "Financial Officer" should be read as Business Manager if no Financial Officer is assigned to the Campus.
  • April 17, 1978 - Added that submission of forms for appointment is required in Payroll Office one month before the first pay date each term.
  • April 1, 1974 -
    • Added stipulation for same pay, same work within any department.
    • Significant reorganization of policy's sections including a new section RESPONSIBILITIES.
  • July 1, 1968 - New Policy.