UW–Madison invests millions in graduate assistantship support
UW–Madison, through internal, extramural, and gift funding sources, supports over 5,400 graduate students – including 71% of doctoral students – through teaching assistant (TA), project assistant (PA), research assistant (RA), and lecturer student assistant (LSA) appointments.
Graduate assistants receive a monthly stipend and, for those with total appointments of at least 33%, free tuition* and eligibility for comprehensive benefits. These competitive compensation packages help UW–Madison faculty recruit the top graduate students nationally and globally.
Our graduate assistant stipends are above the median for peer institutions
Recent increases have placed UW–Madison’s minimum stipend levels at or above the peer institution median. Additionally, individual departments can choose to pay their graduate assistants at a higher stipend rate than the minimum, and some graduate students hold combined appointments that include a fellowship or additional assistantship. 98% of RAs, 84% of PAs, and 80% of TAs have total appointment levels of 50% or higher.
This continued investment in graduate students, who are integral to the university’s teaching and research missions, has resulted in a 79% increase in the minimum stipend for teaching assistants, a 52% increase in the minimum stipend for annual research assistants, and a 76% increase in the minimum stipend for annual project assistants over the past ten years.
An overlooked but valuable part of the compensation package
Tuition remission – for which more than 99% of graduate assistants qualify* – allows them to take up to a full credit load or enroll in research credits in the fall, spring, and summer semesters. The tuition rate for a non-dissertator Wisconsin resident is $12,000 per year, which is covered in full for graduate assistants.
*Graduate students enrolled in service-based pricing programs, such as online and accelerated programs, are ineligible to receive tuition remission.
The 2024-2025 academic year minimum stipend rate setting process is the first step in a multi-year graduate student support plan that is currently being developed. The plan will forecast graduate student minimum stipends three years into the future on an ongoing basis and allow for faculty, programs, departments, and schools/colleges to plan accordingly; moreover, the plan will consider multiple aspects of graduate student support in addition to stipends. Over the next few months, the university will engage graduate students, faculty, staff, and institutional leadership to shape the plan and release the plan by March 15, 2024.
Graduate assistants have many of the same benefits as faculty and staff
Paid leave: Paid leave benefits available to graduate assistants include legal holidays (if the holiday falls on the student’s regularly scheduled work day), sick leave, jury duty, and vacation (for 12-month appointments). Unpaid leave options may include leave of absence and family and medical leave if the eligibility requirements are met.
On-campus parking: Most graduate assistants qualify for reduced-cost semester and annual base-lot parking permits. Other low-cost parking options include park and ride permits, afternoon permits, and night permits.
Health insurance plans: Graduate students with graduate assistantship appointments are eligible for many of the same high-quality benefits as state employees and pay 50% less than faculty and staff for health insurance premiums. 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.
Below is an overview of the optional benefits available to graduate assistants (GAs) with appointments of at least a full semester (for academic year positions) or at least six months (for annual positions). See the Office of Human Resources’ Benefits Services Website for detailed benefit information, including family options.
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GAs are eligible for a State Group Health Insurance plan, with preventive services covered at 100% and a Uniform Dental coverage option for services such as cleanings, fillings, and x-rays. The 2024 Employee Coverage Premium including Uniform Dental is $59 per month. The 2024 Employee Coverage Premium without Uniform Dental is $56 per month.
Supplemental dental insurance
GAs are eligible for supplemental dental coverage through Delta Dental, which provides a portion of coverage for major dental services such as crowns, root canals, and implants. The 2024 Employee Coverage Premiums are Select $9.08 per month or Select Plus $21.60 per month.
GAs are eligible for supplemental vision coverage through DeltaVision, which provides a portion of coverage for annual vision exams, prescription glasses, and contacts. The 2024 Employee Coverage Premium is $5.72 per month.
Flex spending accounts
GAs can set aside money on a pre-tax basis, which lowers taxable income. A health care account can be used to pay for eligible expenses, such as prescription co-pays and glasses/contacts ($3,050 annual maximum in 2024). A dependent care account can be used to pay for eligible expenses such as daycare ($5,000 annual maximum in 2024).
GAs have four plans to choose from: Individual & Family, UW Employees Inc., Accidental Death & Dismemberment, and Accident Insurance through Securian. The Employee Coverage Premiums vary by plan and coverage amount elected.
GAs are eligible for the UW Supplemental Retirement Plan 403(b) program and 457 Wisconsin Deferred Compensation (WDC) program. These plans allow before-tax and after-tax (Roth) contributions.
Graduate assistants have access to student services as well as resources for UW–Madison employees
The important services funded through segregated fees are a major reason the quality of the UW–Madison experience is so high. These include 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. For example, a city bus pass – which students receive at no additional charge because of segregated fees – would cost $780 per year, or $336 per year for a limited quantity of low-income passes. The Child Care Tuition Assistant Program typically covers 30 to 40% of child care costs per semester for graduate students who qualify.
In addition, students with graduate assistant appointments can access the Ombuds Office and are eligible for research and conference travel grants through the Graduate School’s Student Research Grants Competition.
The Graduate Assistantship Policies and Procedures (GAPP) provide formal guidance on employment-related matters for graduate student research, teaching, and project assistants and their supervisors. GAPP covers appointment letters, probationary periods, job orientation and training, performance evaluations, leave benefits, and grievance procedures. The document was created through a collaborative process involving graduate students, faculty, staff, and administration, consistent with university values of collaborative decision making.
The Graduate School Dean’s Advisory Board brings together a group of graduate students with a range of experiences, degree goals, fields of study, and perspectives. The members are in different stages of their graduate careers and at different points in their career paths overall, bringing diverse viewpoints to the table. As an advisory board, students discuss policy proposals and provide feedback to the dean. Members are also able to talk directly with the dean about their or their peers’ concerns.
The Graduate School is committed to graduate students’ academic and professional success. Together with campus partners, each semester the school hosts nearly 400 professional development events, which can be found through DiscoverPD and its events calendar. The Office of Professional Development within the Graduate School developed DiscoverPD, an innovative tool for UW–Madison graduate students to match their development needs with campus events, self-guided activities, online training, and more. The Delta Program in the Graduate School provides professional development to advance the skills of future faculty to become inclusive and effective teachers and research mentors. Graduate students receive GradConnections Weekly, a newsletter that delivers succinct professional development tips as well as notices about upcoming face-to-face and online career development and skill-building opportunities.
The Graduate School cares about graduate students’ overall well-being. University Health Services (UHS) offers high-quality medical and mental health care, in addition to wellness services, to all UW–Madison graduate students. Services are funded by student segregated fees, so most UHS services are available at no charge. Plus, UHS is at the top of its class. The Princeton Review recognized UHS as the 14th best college health service in the U.S. in 2022. UHS was previously recognized as the best college health service in 2016, 2017, and 2018. Many graduate students benefit from popular services such as wellness programming and mental health support, including individual counseling, group counseling, and psychiatric services.