Types of Funding
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.
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.
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.
The Office of Student Financial Aid provides information and assistance to prospective, new, and enrolled graduate students about federal work study and student loans.
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 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.
Cost of attendance (COA) is an estimate of what it will cost to cover the expenses of attending UW–Madison. Your COA is more than just tuition and fees – it includes cost of housing, books, supplies, health insurance, and other living expenses. Although the actual cost of attending UW–Madison varies depending on your particular spending habits, the university bases your financial aid award on your COA. Visit the Office of Student Financial Aid website to learn more.
Most UW–Madison students are assessed segregated fees in addition to tuition. These fees fund the bus pass program, University Health Services, the Child Care Tuition Assistance Program, and other services, which are used at significant rates by graduate students.
Students with tuition remission are required to pay segregated fees. Fellowships paid through the Graduate School (not including Vilas travel awards) cover segregated fees in addition to tuition.
Segregated fees are funds dedicated to supporting various student service programs and organizations. The student government on campus is responsible for the allocation of these funds. The Student Services Finance Committee (SSFC) of the Associated Students of Madison (ASM) submits budget recommendations to the ASM Student Council and the Chancellor as to how student fees should be spent.
Graduate students with assistantship appointments of 33.3% or higher receive multiple benefits including a monthly stipend, remission* of both resident and non-resident tuition, and eligibility for health insurance with appointments of at least a full semester (for academic year positions) or six months (for annual positions). Students also build professional competency through assistantship experiences.
*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. See a list of UW–Madison programs with service-based pricing (NetID login required).
UW–Madison invests millions in support for graduate assistantships, including teaching assistantships, project assistantships, research assistantships, and lecturer student assistant appointments. Recent increases have placed UW–Madison’s minimum stipend levels for graduate assistants at or above the peer institution median.
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.
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’ student assistant appointments 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.