Jul 12, 2024  
2024-2025 Graduate Catalog 
2024-2025 Graduate Catalog

Graduate Student Funding

General Information

The Graduate School provides funds for graduate programs to offer qualified students in-state and out-of-state tuition awards, graduate assistantships, and health insurance. The primary purpose of graduate student funding is to promote the successful completion of an academic program by enabling students to receive support in an academic setting while they earn their degrees. Most common are graduate assistantships. Graduate assistants work under the supervision of an appropriate faculty member. Graduate assistantship assignments provide support of the university’s teaching, research, or service missions for the benefit of the student in an area closely related to the student’s chosen field of study. Employment is measured as a proportion of full-time equivalent (FTE) status, with 1.0 FTE representing employment estimated to be 40 hours per week.  

Types of Graduate Assistantships

There are three types of graduate assistantships at East Carolina University: graduate teaching assistants (GTA); graduate research assistants (GRA); and graduate administrative support assistants (GSA).

Graduate Teaching Assistant

A graduate teaching assistant (GTA) works with a supervising faculty member to gain instructional skills and an increased understanding of the discipline. The GTA is provided a stipend and their primary responsibilities are to support the university’s instructional mission. Services provided by a GTA may include some or all of the following: classroom or laboratory teaching; advising and mentoring of students; proctoring examinations; grading papers, homework, and/or projects; accompanying/coaching musical or vocal performances; providing artistic instruction or assisting with preparation and management of materials and programs that are utilized in imparting knowledge or in the instructional process; or providing other general assistance in the instruction process.

Graduate Research Assistant

A graduate research assistant (GRA) works with a supervising faculty member to provide general support to the university’s research mission. These responsibilities may or may not relate directly to the student’s thesis or dissertation.  Duties of the GRA primarily involve applying and mastering research concepts, practices, or methods of scholarship.  Services provided by a GRA may include some or all the following: assisting faculty members in a research or creative activity; performing degree-related professional or administrative services that support research, instruction, professional development, or outreach missions of the university; developing and evaluating instructional materials or curricula; or assuming responsibility for designated scholarly endeavors.

Graduate Administrative Support Assistant

A graduate administrative support assistant (GSA) provides general services to the university that may or may not be directly related to the student’s chosen field of study.

Student Workers

A student worker is different from a graduate assistant. A student worker is an employed student who may not meet some or all the above criteria pertaining to graduate assistants.  Student workers must be paid based on actual time worked as assigned.  Documentation of hours worked via a time sheet and an hourly wage of at least the federal minimum wage ($7.25, as of 2019), are required.  For more information about requirements for employment of student workers, contact The Office of Student Employment.

Limitations on FTE, Workload, and Appointments

The Graduate School limits the FTE of graduate assistantships to ensure that students make adequate satisfactory academic progress and complete their degrees within appropriate time limits.  A graduate assistantship of 0.50 FTE is estimated to be the equivalent of 20 hours of work per week. Assistantships up to 0.625 FTE are equivalent to an estimated maximum of 25 hours per week and do not require permission of the dean of the Graduate School. Exceptions for appointment totals exceeding 0.625 require the approval of the dean of the Graduate School. The sponsoring unit must allocate sufficient funds to cover the employer’s portion of the NC State Employee’s Health Insurance plan, if applicable.

These guidelines are applicable to all academic terms.

The combined maximum workload limits for ECU graduate assistants as stated above extend to include all forms of graduate student employment including, but not limited to, hourly graduate student employment, work-study employment at ECU, and other forms of employment. If you have questions about workload limits, please contact the Graduate School.

Minimum Assistantship Amount

A full-time graduate assistantship (20 hours per week - fall and spring semesters) is worth a minimum of $9,000 ($4,500 per term). Units may opt to pay graduate assistants in their program at a higher rate if they deem it appropriate. Units may opt to split assistantships into 1/4 (5 hrs/wk),1/2 (10 hours/week) and 3/4 (15 hours/week) appointments as deemed necessary.

Tax Withholding Requirements

For graduate assistants to be exempt from FICA tax withholding, they must have a minimum registration of 4 hours for the fall and spring semesters and 3 hours in the summer.  If the graduate assistant is registered for less than the stated hours FICA will be withheld.  Departments paying students from sources other than state appropriated dollars should note that the university’s portion of the FICA (7.65%) will be taken from the funding source used to pay the assistantship and should therefore budget accordingly.

Tuition and Health Insurance Support Awards

Students may be nominated by their graduate faculty program director or coordinator for tuition support that ranges from partial support to full tuition. 

Out-of-State Tuition Award

This type of tuition support reduces the student’s tuition to the in-state rate (for out-of-state students only). Students receiving this type of support are still required to pay in-state tuition, university fees, and tuition surcharges for any specialized programs or courses unless an in-state tuition award is provided (for research doctoral students only). 

In-State Tuition Award for Full-Time Research Doctoral Students

An in-state tuition award provides support for the cost of in-state tuition. Eligible research doctoral students may receive both out-of-state and in-state tuition awards. Students receiving this type of support are required to pay university fees and tuition surcharges for any specialized programs or courses.

Student Health Insurance Award for Full-Time Research Doctoral Students 

A student health insurance award covers the cost of the student’s ECU student health insurance plan only. Students who have creditable health insurance from another source, for example a spouse or employer, are not eligible. Students must be enrolled in at least three credits of campus-based courses to be eligible. 

Full-time students in research doctoral programs in good academic standing (see eligibility below) who are receiving full-time assistantship support will receive full tuition and health insurance support. Where allowed by the funding agency, the same source of funds that support doctoral assistantships must support the student’s in-state tuition and health insurance. See Chapter 500, Policy 535 in the ECU Office of Research Administration handbook for details. Doctoral programs are strongly encouraged to write twelve-month contracts for full-time students. 

Tuition and Assistantship Eligibility

General Requirements
  • Tuition support covers the actual cost of tuition for courses in the student’s program of study. Students who withdraw during the refund period cannot personally receive refunds of any portion of the university’s allotted tuition support. 
  • Tuition support is available in the fall and spring semesters only. Students graduating in a summer term with visa types that require enrollment in the summer will be eligible for one credit of tuition support in their final summer term.
  • New students receiving financial support (assistantships, tuition, or health insurance) should register for classes as soon as possible; no later than July 15th for fall semester and no later than December 1st for spring semester. 
  • Returning students must register for classes within 3 weeks of the early registration period opening. Returning students who are not registered for the next term by the last day of classes of the current term are at risk of losing all funding support. 
  • Students must be enrolled full-time (9 credit hours) at all times and hold a full-time assistantship (20 hours a week) in each semester tuition support is awarded in order to receive full-time tuition support. Tuition support will be pro-rated for students on part-time assistantships. 
  • Students must be in good academic standing to receive tuition or assistantship support. 
    • First term: Qualify for regular admission
    • Second and subsequent terms: Maintain an overall graduate GPA of 3.0 and make satisfactory academic progress on non-coursework degree requirements
  • Distance education and campus-based graduate certificate only students are not eligible for financial assistance using Graduate School funds. 
  • Students determined to no longer meet eligibility requirements as stated above will have the full amount of their tuition award rescinded and may be personally responsible for paying the full costs of tuition for that semester. This included withdrawing from courses during the term resulting in fewer than nine graded credits prior to the refund period ending. 
  • Students must notify the Graduate School any time dropping or withdrawing from a course will result in fewer than nine graded credits in a semester to determine the impact on their tuition award. 
Time Limits for Non-Resident Out-of-State Tuition Support
  • Qualifying graduate students are only eligible for out-of-state tuition support for two semesters (one academic year).
  • After two semesters graduate students will be responsible for paying tuition at the nonresident rate unless they establish in-state residency for tuition purposes.
  • Graduate students must begin completing residentiary acts necessary to establish in-state residency immediately upon relocating to North Carolina. For more information see North Carolina Residency Determination Service (RDS). 
  • Non-resident students cannot establish residency in North Carolina if their non-resident parents claim them on their tax returns.
Time Limits for Assistantship Support with Graduate School Funds
  • Master’s students - five semesters.
  • Every semester (fall and spring terms) in which the student is enrolled counts against the total number of semesters allowed for assistantship support on Graduate School funds, even if the student does not receive assistantship support. 
Time Limits for Doctoral Student Assistantship and In-State Tuition Support with Graduate School Funds
  • Doctoral degree with previous related master’s degree - eight semesters
  • Doctoral degree without previous related master’s degree - ten semesters
  • Every semester (fall and spring terms) in which the student is enrolled counts against the total number of semesters allowed for assistantship support on Graduate School funds, even if the student does not receive assistantship support.
Process for Receiving Financial Support
  • The graduate program director submits qualified students for funding to the Graduate School; the Graduate School reviews eligibility requirements and approves offers of support. 
  • For students who receive offers for fall semester admission, students must respond by April 15th (National Signing Day). If an offer is made after April 15th, the program will provide the student with a firm deadline.
  • The Graduate School deposits tuition funds in the student recipient’s university financial aid account. The funds appear on the student’s account upon registration. 
  • Students who plan to pay for university fees and tuition surcharges for any specialized programs or courses prior to the first cancellation date for the term or the first day of classes if student loans are assisting with this payment. Schedules will be cancelled if the student has not paid the fees and tuition surcharges. 
Exceptions to These Policies
  • Individual requests for exceptions to these policies will only be considered in well-justified cases and require the approval of the dean of the Graduate School or designee. 
  • Requests for an exception with documentation must be submitted by a student’s faculty graduate program director to the Graduate School. 
Pay Rates
  • Pay rates and other details of implementation are published in the Graduate Program Directors Handbook (Chapter 8). 
  • The handbook is posted on the Graduate School’s Graduate Program Director’s Tools website: https://gradschool.ecu.edu/graduate-program-director-tools/.