Investing in Graduate Assistants

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.

 

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Download a printable version of highlights about UW–Madison Support for Graduate Assistants.

Pie chart showing three sections that add up to a 2024 to 2025 graduate assistantship compensation total of $46,526. The largest section is $26,506 representing the minimum stipend for a nine month, 50 percent teaching or project assistantship appointment. The next largest section is $12,000 representing the tuition rate for full time status for a Wisconsin resident non dissertator. The third section is $8,020 representing the health insurance employer contribution for an individual in 2024.

Stipends

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.

Tuition remission

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.

Increased investment

The 2024-2025 academic year minimum stipend rate setting process is the first step in a multi-year graduate student support plan.

UWMadison has committed to increasing minimum graduate assistant stipends for the next four years in a forecasting plan, which emphasizes factors that are critical to student success: tuition remission, health and dental insurance benefits, paid vacation and sick leave, and mentorship training. The new approach gives students, principal investigators, departments, programs, schools, and colleges the ability to budget for increases to minimum stipends several years into the future.

Increased investment in graduate assistant stipends over the past 10 years: 79.8% increase for TAs, 76.2% for PAs, and 52.6% for RAs. A line chart with a red arrow pointing upward illustrated this increase over time.

Benefits

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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Health insurance

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.

Vision insurance

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).

Life insurance

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.

Retirement plans

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.

Contact

If you have questions, please contact graduateschool@grad.wisc.edu.