Four years of graduate assistantship minimum stipend increases planned

UW–Madison has committed to increasing minimum graduate student teaching, research, and project assistantship stipends for the next four years in a stipend forecasting plan sent last week to schools, colleges, departments, and graduate programs. Rather than setting minimum rates year-to-year, the new approach gives students, principal investigators, departments, programs, schools, and colleges the ability to budget for minimum salary increases several years into the future.

The plan emphasizes supportive factors that are critical to student success: tuition remission, health and dental insurance benefits, paid vacation and sick leave, and mentorship training.

“Our competitive benefits package – which includes stipends, tuition remission, health insurance, and other benefits – is designed to help graduate students defray their cost of living so that they can focus on their advanced studies and degree completion,” states William J. Karpus, Dean of the Graduate School, who developed the plan with Provost Charles Isbell and Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration Robert Cramer.

Ninety-nine percent of UW-Madison graduate assistants qualify for tuition remission, which allows them to take up to a full credit load every semester tuition-free. Graduate assistants are also paid stipends that can be used to help cover the various non-tuition costs of attendance, including paying segregated fees. These fees fund services such as the bus pass programs, University Health Services, and the Child Care Tuition Assistance Program.

The plan will enable UW–Madison, which supports over 5,400 graduate students through teaching assistant, project assistant, research assistant, and lecturer student assistant appointments, to remain competitive for top applicants. The plan also provides increased clarity about future minimum stipend rates to departments, programs, schools, and colleges.

The UW–Madison minimum annualized stipend for a 50% graduate assistant or internal fellowship appointment will be:

  • 2024-25: $32,396 (14% increase from 2023-24)
  • 2025-26: $35,636 (10% increase from 2024-25)
  • 2026-27: $37,417 (5% increase from 2025-26)
  • 2027-28: $39,288 (5% increase from 2026-27)

Many individual graduate programs set stipend rates above the minimum to respond to competitive factors within the discipline; increases to the minimum stipend have no direct effect on programs or departments already paying above these minimums.

The plan also links degree completion and career preparation to effective faculty mentorship of graduate students and to graduate students developing mentor and mentee skills. Under the new plan, the university will implement evidence-based mentorship training by the end of 2027-2028.

The Graduate School will continue to communicate with programs and departments on the specifics of the minimum rates each year, including collecting stipend-setting information each fall, and work closely with schools and colleges to explore the broad set of issues affecting graduate students.

Visit the Graduate School’s website to read more about how UW–Madison invests in graduate assistantships. Questions about the stipend forecasting plan can be directed to

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is the university planning for stipend increases several years into the future?

The stipend forecasting plan is designed to both move us to and help us remain at competitive rates, and to meet our key principles: 1) stipends are a part of a competitive support package that includes tuition remission and health insurance and are designed to help graduate students defray their cost of living so that they can focus on advanced studies and degree completion and 2) stipends are constructed to take into account the various costs of graduate student attendance at UW–Madison, including segregated fees. Providing increased clarity about future rates assists students, principal investigators, departments/programs, and schools/colleges with planning.

To what types of graduate assistantship (GA) appointments does this change apply?

The stipend projection plan applies to teaching assistant (TA), research assistant (RA), project assistant (PA), and internal fellowship appointments.

What does the term “annualized” in the memo and website announcement mean?

This term refers to the fact that the dollar amounts listed are normalized to an annual number. Human resources uses the terms “A basis” (which is annual) and “C basis” (which is academic). The calculation to convert A basis to C basis is A*9/11=C assuming the percent appointment is constant at 50%. Students should work with their local HR departments to understand the implications for their individual circumstances.

The website lists rates for annual and academic 50% appointments. How much will a graduate student with a different percentage earn?

Other percentage appointments will earn an adjusted stipend amount. Students should work with their local HR departments to understand the implications for their individual circumstances.

Why do graduate students pay segregated fees?

The important services funded through segregated fees are a major reason the quality of the UW–Madison experience is so high. These services include the bus pass program, University Health Services, the Child Care Tuition Assistance Program (CCTAP), and other services, which are used at significant rates by graduate students. For example, a city bus pass would otherwise cost $780 per year, or $336 per year for a limited quantity of low-income passes. CCTAP typically covers 30 to 40% of child care costs per semester for graduate students who qualify.

The university has chosen to increase financial support and provide flexibility for graduate students through increased stipends, rather than paying required fees for them. UW–Madison calculates the cost of segregated fees within the cost of attendance, and minimum stipend levels are constructed to account for the full cost of attendance.

What is the deadline for graduate assistants paying segregated fees?

The due date for segregated and other fee payments is the first Friday in December for the Fall term and the first Friday in April for the Spring term. UW–Madison’s deferred due date policy gives graduate assistants three months of paycheck earnings to use toward segregated fees and other fees not covered by tuition remission.

Can programs set higher rates than the minimums listed?

As has been the past practice, departments/programs may set stipends above the campus minimum to be competitive with their own peer departments/programs in their own disciplines. The Graduate School will continue to collect and approve actual stipend setting information every fall. Program rates are posted on the Graduate School’s Graduate Assistantship webpage.

If my GA stipend rate is already above the minimum, will I see the same percentage increase listed on the website announcement?

The increases described in this plan are increases to the minimum stipend and have no direct effect on programs/departments paying above these minimums.

How was the GA minimum stipend forecasting news communicated with the graduate education community, and how can I stay informed about future changes?

The deans of schools/colleges, departments, and graduate programs received a memo about the GA minimum stipend forecasting plan on March 15, 2024. The following week, the Graduate School published a website announcement and notified all graduate students via email (with programs receiving a copy of that email). The announcement was also included in the GradConnections Weekly newsletter for graduate students, as well as Inside UW for all UW-Madison employees and The Weekly for all students. Future changes will be communicated via direct email to relevant audiences, as well as in the GradConnections Weekly newsletter for graduate students.

The announcement says that GAs receive a “competitive benefits package.” What is included in that package?

In addition to receiving a monthly stipend, graduate assistants with total appointments of at least 33% receive full coverage of tuition and eligibility for comprehensive benefits. The tuition rate for a non-dissertator Wisconsin resident is $12,000 per year, which is paid in full on behalf of graduate assistants. Graduate assistants have many of the same benefits as faculty and staff, such as paid leave benefits including legal holidays, sick leave, jury duty, vacation (for annual appointments), and paid parental leave; on-campus parking at reduced-cost for semester and annual base-lot parking permits; and health insurance plans with the same high-quality benefits as state employees at 50% less premiums than faculty and staff. The annual employer contribution toward graduate assistant health insurance and dental coverage ranges from $7,000 to $16,500 on average, depending on the health plan a graduate assistant selects.

The announcement mentions mentor/mentee training. What are the plans for implementing this? What training already exists and what will be developed?

To help students focus on advanced studies, achieve timely degree completion, and receive preparation for future career outcomes, the stipend forecasting plan includes working with departments to improve faculty mentorship of graduate students and assist graduate students in developing mentor and mentee skills. Such evidence-based curricula are already being used by the Center for the Improvement of Mentoring Experiences in Research (CIMER), the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Mentoring (CTLM), WISCIENCE, and the Delta Program in the Graduate School. Students may pursue mentor/mentee training through the Delta Program and WISCIENCE. WISCIENCE currently offers mentor training for faculty in STEM disciplines; additional information about mentor training will be available from CTLM soon.