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Graduate School


Graduate Assistantship Policy


Graduate assistants are typically full-time graduate students who participate in teaching, research, or administrative activities in exchange for financial support at North Dakota State University . Graduate assistantships and fellowships are awarded to graduate students who, based on their credentials, are deemed likely to be highly successful as students. Graduate assistantships contribute to student professional development with the primary purpose of assisting students in the successful completion of their academic program. Activities that are relevant to each student's program of study and contribute to the university's teaching, research/creative activity, or service efforts should be incorporated. Each assistantship requires periodic oral and written assessment and feedback regarding a student's performance. Students receiving a graduate assistantship or fellowship are expected to maintain good academic standing and satisfactory progress toward their degrees. Please refer to the section on Graduate School Policies for more information.

Eligibility for Assistantships

Each graduate program must develop a procedure for the awarding of graduate assistantships. Recommendations for assistantships are made to the graduate dean and are subject to the dean's approval. Graduate programs may have specific requirements for eligibility and need to develop a procedure to periodically assess the performance of graduate assistants. Graduate assistantships may also be awarded outside of the student's home program. These assistantships require the continued approval of the graduate program administrator and the graduate dean.

Before any assistantship can be awarded, students must be admitted to the Graduate School as a degree-seeking student. Students placed on Academic Warning may retain their assistantship. Students placed on Probation may no longer receive an assistantship. The tuition discount may be reduced by other financial awards directed specifically to pay tuition.

Teaching assistants whose native language is not English need to demonstrate English proficiency (refer to section titled "English Language Proficiency for Teaching Assistants").

Assistantship Expectations

Students must be registered for credit each semester they receive an assistantship. Students must dedicate the required number of hours to assigned work each week. In addition, international students must maintain the appropriate residency status.

Assistantship appointments may vary in length and are contingent upon the availability of funding. Some assistantships are granted for one academic term or year with reappointment dependent upon performance review. Other assistantships are for multiple years with annual performance reviews. A general guideline for maximum time allowed is two to three years for a master's student and four to five years for doctoral students. Additional time may be approved, on a case-by-case basis, if the work being accomplished by the student warrants such action.

Stipend Levels

Graduate assistantship stipends vary by discipline. A full-time assistantship consists of 20 hours/week. For information on the current minimum stipend level for a full assistantship, refer to graduate student handbooks for the specific department and/or departmental web site information. Departments may award stipends of less than the full-time amount, but they must reduce the workload accordingly.

The responsibilities associated with a graduate assistantship may be variable in nature. The hour commitment defined by an assistantship may be averaged across a given time period. For example, a teaching assistantship of 20 hours/week should total to 320 hours across the 16 weeks of the academic term. In these cases, students should be given adequate advance notice of these variable expectations so that they can adjust their schedules to meet the requirements of the assistantship. Supervisors must also remain sensitive to the academic demands faced by graduate students.

Students receiving graduate assistantships also receive tuition waivers. To be eligible for a tuition waiver, the assistantship must be at least 160 hours per semester and must pay at least the federal minimum wage. Partial tuition waivers are not given when a graduate assistant works less than 160 hours in the semester. The tuition waiver may have limitations depending on the assistantship appointment.  

Additional Employment at NDSU

Graduate assistants on full assistantships are not allowed to work on a second assistantship, as part-time instructors, as student workers, or in any other capacity for NDSU while working as a graduate assistant unless an exception is approved by the graduate dean prior to the work being performed .

Exceptions may be granted for a few hours of extra work for a specific job (for example, administering an occasional exam, teaching an occasional music lesson, or working at a special event held on a weekend), but not for regular additional hours. Additional work performed during the Winter or Spring breaks is allowed. Additional hours may also be appropriate during the Summer term, depending upon the student's credit load for the Summer term. Exceptions must be recommended in writing by the student's supervisor; approved by the student's advisor; and the student's department or program administrator and forwarded to the Graduate School . The Graduate School notifies Payroll that an exception has been granted. These steps must be completed in the order described and before the student begins work.  

Rights and Privileges of Graduate Assistants

Graduate assistants have certain rights and privileges specific to the assistantship experience:

  • The right to be notified in writing of all decisions that affect their status as a graduate assistant. This includes advance notification of evaluation procedures and a summary of their performance evaluation.
  • The right to be notified of any complaints received by a supervisor or department chair concerning their performance of duties.
  • The right to respond in writing to such complaints.
  • The right, depending on the availability of departmental and university resources, to be supported in pursuing additional activities that pertain to their professional development.
  • The right to balance their assistantship responsibilities with their responsibilities to their academic program so that they can complete their degree in a timely manner.
  • The privilege of being treated as a professional in their chosen field of study.  


Graduate assistants may have their assistantship terminated by the graduate dean, upon recommendation by their supervisor, with probable cause. Early termination for cause may occur when

  • A student does not abide by the appointment conditions.
  • A student fails to perform tasks as assigned.
  • A student does not make adequate degree progress.
  • A student is placed on Academic Probation.
  • A student does not make satisfactory research progress.
  • A student fails to maintain minimum registration.
  • A student persistently refuses to follow reasonable advice and counsel of faculty in carrying out assistantship obligations.
  • A student fails to comply with responsibilities as an employee set forth in the Graduate Bulletin, department rules and regulations governing assistantships, or the terms of sponsored research agreements that fund the assistantship.
  • A student's personal conduct is seriously prejudicial to the university, including violation of the NDSU Code of Student Behavior, state or federal law, and general university regulations.

Appeals Process

The North Dakota State University philosophy is to encourage and seek resolution of problems at the level most closely related to the origin of the specific disputes. This means

  • The first step should be an informal conference to first discuss and attempt to resolve the problem(s) with the person(s) directly involved.
  • When a mutually satisfactory resolution cannot be reached or if discussion of the problem(s) seems inappropriate because of the nature of the student's complaint, the student should seek advice from the chair of the department.
  • Depending on the nature of the problem(s), the department chair or student's graduate committee chair may deal with the situation directly, advise the student to discuss the problem(s) with the appropriate academic dean and/or the graduate dean, or advise the student of the appropriate grievance procedure to pursue.
  • If the graduate assistant wishes to challenge the termination decision, a written appeal to the dean of the Graduate School must be made within two weeks of notification of the mediation results (refer to section titled "Graduate Student Appeals").

Students should not carry more than a full-time load. Individual departments will determine a minimum and a maximum number of credit hours.

Student Focused. Land Grant. Research University.

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NDSU Graduate School
Phone: +1 (701) 231-7033
Campus address:  106 Putnam Hall
Physical/delivery address:  NDSU Graduate School/106 Putnam Hall/1349 12th Avenue Northwest/Fargo, ND 58102
Mailing address:  NDSU Dept. 2820/PO Box 6050/Fargo, ND 58108
Page manager: NDSU Graduate School

Last Updated: Tuesday, January 28, 2014 8:14:48 PM