Funding and Financial Aid

Types of Funding

Graduate assistantships

There are three types of graduate assistantships on campus: teaching, project, and research assistantships. Programs use their own internal processes to award assistantships to students.

teaching assistant answers student's questions


Fellowships are grants that you do not have to pay back. Unlike graduate assistantships, fellowships generally involve no work obligations. There are both campus/departmental and external fellowships.

library and information studies graduate student


Traineeships are supported by federal training grants from agencies like the NIH and NSF. Benefits typically include tuition/fee remission, stipend, and health insurance. To inquire about traineeships, check with your graduate program coordinator.

graduate fellow talks with children

Student loans

The Office of Student Financial Aid provides information and assistance to prospective, new, and enrolled graduate students about federal work study and student loans.

researchers and teachers collaborate

Student jobs

The UW–Madison Student Jobs Center has listings of open positions both on campus and off campus in Madison and the surrounding areas. Keep in mind that only 33% and higher graduate assistantships provide tuition remission for eligible students.*

research assistant gives presentation

Research and travel grants

This Graduate School competition includes awards for international and domestic travel for eligible UW–Madison graduate students who are traveling to present at a conference or conduct research supporting their dissertation, thesis, or final project.

*Graduate students enrolled in service-based pricing programs, such as online and accelerated programs, are ineligible to receive tuition remission. Students should consult with their graduate programs and read their admission and appointment letters carefully to understand their benefits eligibility.

Funding for international students

U.S. citizenship is a requirement for some fellowships, but there are others for which international students are eligible, including University Fellowships and some departmental fellowships. Adequate financial resources are required for applicants.

graduate students at welcome event

Understanding the funding process

Admissions and funding decisions

At UW–Madison, admissions and funding decisions are made by the specific graduate program(s) to which you apply rather than by a centralized cross-campus process.  Because of the diversity of graduate programs available on campus, graduate programs differ in how they make admissions and funding decisions.  For example, some graduate programs only admit students if they can support them financially with assistantships, traineeships, or fellowships, while other graduate programs admit students without a funding offer.

Graduate programs at UW–Madison also differ in the timing of their admissions and funding decisions.  Some graduate programs make admissions and funding decisions at the same time while other programs make admissions decisions first and funding decisions later.  As a result, you should always start your search for information about funding by contacting your intended program(s).  Program staff will be able to tell you how, when, and to what level funding is typically awarded to incoming students.  Likewise, if you have been admitted to a program, but have not received an offer of funding, you should contact the program to inquire about the timing of their funding decisions.

Funding packages

You may receive a funding offer from your graduate program.  A funding package is an offer of financial support put together by your program for a specified number of years.  A funding package may include a combination of different types of appointments (e.g.,  TA positions, program assistantships, or fellowships).

The terms and conditions of those appointments, including your stipend, may vary from year to year or from term to term. In addition, students enrolled in service-based pricing programs, such as online and accelerated programs, are ineligible for tuition remission.

Remember that fellowships do not require you to work, but graduate assistantship and student hourly appointments do.  Therefore, it is very important that you take the time to understand the funding package you are offered.  The funding letter sent to you by the program should outline all the components of the package being offered.  For each appointment, you should ask for the following information:

  • type of position (e.g., research assistantship, teaching assistantship, fellowship);
  • start and end dates;
  • percentage of the appointment/number of work hours required (e.g., a 50% appointment is 20 hours);
  • stipend amount;
  • eligibility for tuition remission
  • payment of segregated fees, if applicable;
  • eligibility for health insurance; and
  • additional benefits, if any (e.g., travel funds, professional development funds, priority for graduate student housing, etc).

If you have any questions about your funding package or about the information in your funding letter, contact your graduate program.


Payroll taxes are assessed in identical circumstances for stipends provided to research assistants (RAs), project assistants (PAs), and teaching assistants (TAs) — i.e., income taxes are withheld, but FICA tax is not as long as the student is enrolled in at least a half time course of study. Trainee and fellow stipends are also taxable; however, tuition, fees, and books may be deducted before students calculate their tax liability. Find more information on the Office of Human Resources’ Pay webpage.

Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) tax

FICA tax funds social security and Medicare programs. To be eligible for FICA exemption, non-dissertator graduate students must be enrolled at UW–Madison at least half time (4 credits during the spring and fall semesters), or 3 credits for dissertators. Read more about Student FICA exemptions.