Policies Pertaining to Graduate Assistantships

Section IV. Item 1.

  1. Graduate assistants will be designated as:
    1. Teaching Assistants. Teaching Assistants aid in the instructional functions of the university. Their duties may include but are not limited to providing direct instruction in classroom, laboratory, and discussion sections, or in studio settings; tutoring students; mentoring engaged learning experiences for undergraduate students; grading tests and assignments; developing instructional materials; accompanying or coaching artistic performances; and proctoring examinations.
    2. Research Assistants. Research assistants apply research concepts, practices, or methods of scholarship by conducting experiments, analyzing data, presenting findings, collaborating with others in preparing publications, or conducting institutional research for an academic or administrative unit.
    3. Staff Assistants. Staff Assistants assist in roles other than teaching or research. Duties of a staff assistant may include but are not limited to serving as a resident adviser, counselor, academic adviser, secretary, receptionist, administrative assistant, or library assistant.
  2. Graduate assistants are appointed by administrative units of the university receiving a budgetary allocation for this purpose, subject to compliance with current policies.
  3. Graduate assistant appointments are contingent upon students being admitted to the Graduate School; this admission may be "conditional," "tentative," "provisional," or "with stipulation." For conditional admission, if the student fails to meet the conditions designated, admission to the Graduate School is subject to termination, which results also in termination of any assistantship. Offers tendered prior to admission to the Graduate School must carry the condition that the appointment is contingent upon admission. A graduate assistantship appointment may not begin before the end of the term preceding the students' term of admission to the Graduate School. Students enrolled in the category of student-at-large are not eligible for appointments as graduate assistants.
  4. Appointments shall be full-, three-quarter-, or half-time. It shall be the prerogative of the university to determine the appropriate duties of graduate assistants. Assistants holding a full-time appointment will be expected to render not more than 20 hours of service per week, those on three-fourths appointment not more than 15 hours per week, and those on half-time appointment not more than 10 hours per week. A student may hold two graduate assistantships for which the terms of appointment overlap only if each of the assistantships is half-time during the period of overlap. Graduate assistants will be required to perform duties during periods of their appointment when the university faculty is regularly on duty. Requirements for performance of duties during university recess periods or other specific times must be agreed upon in advance in writing, preferably at the time of the appointment, between the graduate assistant and the employing university unit.
  5. Graduate assistants shall be graduate students in good standing on the effective dates of their appointment. Assistants shall have their appointments terminated if, during the term of their appointments, they (1) are academically dismissed or (2) fail to achieve good standing after one academic semester, excluding summer session, in probationary status. Any deviation from termination due to probationary status shall be possible only upon request from the major department with final approval by the office of the Dean of the Graduate School.
  6. Each year the Graduate Council will determine and announce the maximum and minimum monthly assistantship stipends for the following year (August 16 - August 15). The minimum will be half the maximum. Stipends outside of this range may be approved, in special cases, by the Dean of the Graduate School.
  7. Under the Federal Tax Reform Act of 1986 (Public Law 99-514), graduate assistantship stipends are considered wages and hence must be reported as taxable income.
  8. Full-, three-quarter- and half-time graduate assistants receive a full tuition-waiver scholarship during the period of their appointment; however, all fees due are to be paid by the student. Tuition waivers typically cannot be used for international courses and are not applicable to some contract courses. In addition, they may receive a tuition-waiver scholarship for a summer session adjacent to their term of appointment (either the preceding or the following summer), providing they are graduate students during that summer. If an assistantship does not extend over an entire academic term, the student is liable for the payment of in-state or out-of-state tuition, depending upon his or her residency, for the remainder of the term.
  9. Graduate students holding assistantships during a fall or spring semester are expected to enroll in 9 semester hours of course work. In the summer session, graduate assistants are expected to enroll for 6 semester hours. Reduction of up to 3 semester hours in the course load must be approved by the assistant's major department chair with submission of an underload petition to the Dean of the Graduate School. Reduction of more than 3 semester hours in the course load must be approved in advance, in writing (via the petition for Underload for Graduate Student form), by the assistant's major department chair and the office of the Dean of the Graduate School. International graduate students on an F1 or J1 visa must enroll in 9 semester hours in the fall and spring semesters, unless receiving permission, in advance, for fewer hours from the office of the Dean of Graduate School.
  10. Graduate student fees automatically include health insurance coverage only if the student is enrolled for at least 9 semester hours of course work in a semester or summer session. Other students may elect to purchase health insurance by contacting the student insurance office at the start of the academic term. The University provides no life insurance coverage for graduate assistants.
  11. No student holding a faculty, administrative, or civil service position at Northern Illinois University may concurrently hold a graduate assistantship. A graduate assistant may not accept additional employment in any capacity with Northern Illinois University except by permission of the chair of the major department, the student's academic adviser, the head of the unit in which the graduate assistantship is held, and the office of the Dean of the Graduate School. Graduate assistants should not begin working outside their assistantship assignment prior to permission from the Graduate School.
  12. Appointment as a graduate assistant does not give faculty status; an assistant's status is that of a graduate student. As such, the assistant is expected to abide by regulations pertaining to such students.
  13. Northern Illinois University subscribes to the Resolution adopted by the Council of Graduate Schools which, among other provisions, states that in order to accept an offer of employment at another institution after April 15, prospective graduate assistants must first obtain a written release from any other institution to which a previous commitment has been made. At NIU, this release must come from the employing unit.
  14. A student may not resign an assistantship at NIU and immediately accept another at NIU. A new appointment may commence no sooner than one month after the effective date of resignation, or the start of the academic term immediately following that date, whichever is later, unless a written release from the initial hiring unit is submitted.
  15. Students accept assistantship appointments for the specific time period specified in the offering letter and should not expect routine renewal or extension of appointments. The employing unit, Graduate School, or Graduate Assistantship Employment at Human Resource Services, may terminate an assistant for cause; failure to report on the announced report date is grounds for immediate termination of the assistantship. If an assistantship is terminated during an academic term, the student should expect there to be some tuition liability for that term.
  16. Graduate assistants are eligible to purchase parking permits, allowing the assistants to park in lots designated for graduate assistants.
  17. Graduate assistants are eligible to apply for a Holmes Student Center Bookstore credit card and are eligible for a discount on books purchased at that bookstore.
  18. The Federal Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986 mandates that any graduate assistant employed by Northern Illinois University after November 6, 1986 must either be a U.S. citizen or possess current employment authorization from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). According to federal law, the assistant must present original documentation of the U.S. citizenship or employment authorization within three days of the start of duties (the reporting date) or risk cancellation of the assistantship.
  19. On the basis of Illinois law, a student whose native language is not English must demonstrate competence in spoken English in order to be appointed a graduate teaching assistant engaging in oral classroom instruction (unless the language of instruction is not English). A minimum score of 50 on either the Speaking Proficiency English Assessment Kit (SPEAK) administered at NIU or the Test of Spoken English (TSE) has been set by the university for this purpose. Departments desiring to require higher TSE scores are free to do so; those desiring to employ in an oral classroom instructional capacity a student whose TSE score is below the minimum level must receive advance approval of the office of the Dean of the Graduate School.
  20. The State of Illinois mandates that no state agency (including a state university) may initially employ or retain in employment any individual who is in default on an educational loan for a period of six months or more and in the amount of $600 or more unless a satisfactory loan repayment arrangement is made no later than six months after the start of employment. As defined in Public Act 85-827 (paragraph 3552a), an educational loan includes any student loan made possible through funding from the State of Illinois or any other loan from public funds from Illinois or elsewhere, made for the purpose of financing an individual's attendance at an institution of higher education. In order to comply with the Act, every university employee must sign a written statement declaring whether he or she is in default as described above. The statement is contained on the Personal Data Form. If in default, the student must, in order to retain the assistantship for more than six months, make a "satisfactory repayment arrangement" with the lender/guarantor. The act specifies that a "satisfactory" repayment arrangement may not exceed 20 percent of the gross monthly income of the borrower.
  21. Illinois statute (Illinois School Code 5/30-17.1, "Scholarships-Draft Registration" requires students receiving state funded financial aid (i.e., tuition waiver scholarship associated with a graduate assistantship appointment) submit Selective Service Registration Compliance documentation to the university.


Approved by Graduate Council, May 4, 1992
Amended by Graduate Council, November 1, 1993; June 29, 2010; February 6, 2012
Editorial modifications, June 5, 1997; March 1, 1999; January 20, 2005; July 13, 2010
Last Updated: 6/5/12