Financial aid in the Department of Electrical and Computer is provided in several forms:
- University Fellowships
- Industrial Fellowships
- Graduate School - Match Appointment (GRA-MS Match)
- Graduate Teaching Associateships (GTA)
- Graduate Research Associateships (GRA)
Types of Appointments
University Fellowships are awarded by the Graduate School. Students may not apply directly for fellowship consideration. Each graduate program nominates a limited number of students through a university-wide fellowship competition each year. A University Fellowship award is regarded by the Graduate School and the ECE department as one of the most prestigious awards granted to a PhD student. Accordingly, students awarded fellowships are expected to engage in an active program of research which culminates in significant evidence of scholarship. Evidence of scholarship includes refereed publications and a PhD dissertation.
All Graduate School fellowships provide a monthly stipend, academic tuition and fees and a student health insurance subsidy. Generally, the Graduate School stipend is lower than the associateship stipend offered by the ECE department so the ECE department supplements the fellowship to the same level as department associateships. The student is then expected to contribute research time to the department.
Students awarded University Fellowships must enroll in at least 12 graduate course credits in both autumn and spring semesters, 6 credits in summer term. Post candidacy PhD students must be enrolled in 3 graduate credits each term.
Industrial Fellowships are awards supported by industrial funds. They are awarded with the recommendation of the department and concurrence of the companies involved. Most of these fellowships are intended for students in the PhD program. Stipend amounts vary and tuition and fees are generally waived. Students with this type of appointment must enroll in at least 12 graduate course credits in both autumn and spring semesters, 6 credits in summer term. Post candidacy PhD students must be enrolled for 3 credits each term.
Graduate Research Associate Graduate School - Match Appointment (GRA-GS Match) positions are supported by the Graduate School Matching Tuition and Fee Authorization award program. Faculty apply for the matching tuition awards and manage which students receive the awards. Students with a GRA-GS Match appointment must enroll in at least 12 graduate course credits in both autumn and spring semesters, and 6 credits in the summer term. Post candidacy PhD students must enroll in 3 credits each term.
Graduate Teaching Associateships (GTA) are awarded to current ECE graduate students to meet department needs. GTA positions are appointed based on the student's previous academic record, area of specialization, research progress, past teaching performance and the course/laboratory positions that need to be filled. GTAs are typically responsible for 2 or 3 sections of an introductory laboratory course or serve as an aide to a professor teaching an introductory theory course. GTA appointments are halftime appointments (20 hours/week). GTA appointments are are made for one semester at a time and there are no summer appointments in ECE.
GTAs must enroll in at least 9 hours of graduate course credits in both autumn and spring semesters, 4 credits in summer term. Post candidacy PhD students must be enrolled in 3 graduate credits each term. GTA appointments provide a monthly stipend, academic tuition and fees and a student health insurance subsidy. A presently enrolled student who wishes to obtain a GTA appointment may submit an application to the Associate Chair for Curriculum.
Graduate Research Associateships (GRA) positions are offered to graduate students by faculty with research funds to support GRA positions. GRAs are responsible for performing research tasks on a particular budgeted contract or grant secured by an individual faculty, research staff member or laboratory group. The GRA appointment is halftime (20 hours/week) and the research usually leads to the satisfaction of thesis or dissertation requirements.
GRAs must enroll in at least 9 hours of graduate course credits in autumn and spring semesters, 4 credits in summer term. Post candidacy PhD students must be enrolled in 3 credits each term. GRA appointments provide a monthly stipend, academic tuition and fees and a student health insurance subsidy.
Since GRA stipends are paid through individual research contracts and grants, students who seeks a GRA appointment must contact individual faculty members or research groups in the area of interest to determine if funds exist to provide GRA support.
Most starting stipends are uniform for the various forms of financial aid in the ECE Department. Cost-of-living increases are generally given annually, In the PhD program, the Department provides uniform stipend increases corresponding to progression through the academic program, e.g. passing the PhD Qualifying Examination and passing the Candidacy Examination.
In order for a student to qualify for the first incremental stipend increase, the student must satisfy three criteria:
- Be admitted to the PhD program.
- File a PhD Plan of Study.
- Pass the PhD Qualifying Exam.
In order for a PhD student to get their second incremental increase, they must have passed their Candidacy Examination. The raise for each increase will become effective on the semester following the completion of these requirements. The deadline for all requirements is the last day of the graduate associate and fellowship appointment date of the Autumn, Spring or Summer term. Department policy requires any graduate student who receives financial aid from fellowships or associateships to refrain from outside employment. A commitment to academic studies and research or teaching leaves no time for additional duties which may jeopardize the student’s degree goals.
Terms of Appointments
Initial offerings of Fellowships, GRAs, and GTAs are always made via a formal letter of offer from the department chair and request for acceptance or declination by a stated date. These letters detail the source of funding, the duties involved, the stipend and tuition waiver, and the duration of the appointment. Subsequent appointment offers are usually made with similar letters. However, in the case of GRAs often less formal offers of continuing support are made to the student by the faculty or laboratory providing the support. Continuing GTA appointments are made by formal letters of offer.
Evaluation of performance of GRAs is made by the supporting faculty members or laboratory. These are usually informal reviews with oral feedback to the student. A similar evaluation of GTAs is made by the Associate Chair for Instruction who incorporates into the review rankings and comments made by students in the student evaluation forms.
Should a student be given an unsatisfactory performance evaluation, he or she is made aware of the dissatisfaction. If performance is not improved, termination of the student’s appointment can be made before its original termination date. Graduate student grievances are usually initially brought to the attention of the Graduate Studies Chair who will seek information from both sides of the issue.
Additional benefits, beyond a monthly stipend and tuition waiver, usually do not accompany an appointment as Fellow, GRA, or GTA. In individual cases the department or the supporting faculty may provide conference and travel costs for a student, and a few industrial fellowships allow such expenses.
Fellowships and GRA appointments are usually 12 month appointments, with no vacation time between semesters. The student is expected to arrange for time off with his advisor/support faculty and to compensate accordingly. Appointment as a GTA requires the student to be on duty from the first day of class to the day of commencement.