1.8 Graduate Assistantships

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Assistantships are awarded on a competitive basis in the English Department. Assistantships include monthly stipends for 9 months during the academic year, health insurance benefits, and tuition scholarships (summer appointments are separate, include stipends and tuition scholarships, but have limited availability).

English Department graduate students may be eligible for and apply for graduate assistantships in other units or departments on campus as well (e.g., the Writing and Media Center, Engineering-LAS Online Learning, Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, etc.).

Graduate assistantship appointments, payroll, and other employee-related business is part of the ISU Workday system and appointments entered by the Graduate Program Staff Administrative Assistant (englgrad@iastate.edu).

1.8.1 Appointment types

Teaching assistantships

Graduate teaching assistantships will normally be 1/2-time 20 hours per week nine-month appointments, which is the amount of employment needed to qualify for maximum tuition scholarships amounts and health insurance benefits. TAs are required to teach the equivalent of four courses per academic year, usually courses that are part of the following programs:

Research assistantships

The English Department may occasionally have research assistantships to offer. These assistantships require a student to assist one or more faculty members with grant funded research projects for a specified number of hours each week. Occasionally faculty in other departments will hire English graduate students for special projects as well.

1.8.2 Applications for graduate assistantship support

During admission consideration

During the admission application process, students are considered and evaluated for graduate assistantship support by the Graduate Assistantship Selection Committee if they indicate on the Admissions Office graduate admission application they want to be considered for teaching and/or research assistantship opportunities.

Currently enrolled students

If you are interested in a teaching assistantship, watch for the call for applications announced by the Graduate Program Staff Administrative Assistant and review the Deadlines website for more information and specific details about applying. The application deadline for consideration is January 15 each year and all requests are to be submitted to the Graduate Program Staff Administrative Assistant (englgrad@iastate.edu). You will be responsible for submitting required assistantship application materials and updating your graduate file. Applications will not be decided upon until sometime in April. Applications for new assistantships from both current and incoming students are read simultaneously by the Graduate Assistantship Selection Committee with final decisions pending confirmation of funding availability.

TA Reassignment requests

If you are currently teaching for a particular teaching program to which you were assigned (i.e., ISUComm Foundation Courses, Speech Communication, English as a Second Language) and you wish to be reassigned to teach in one of the other programs, you must submit a reassignment request and be approved to teach in the new program if not already approved.

Doctoral student requests for extension of support eligibility (PhD only)

If you are a doctoral student with a teaching/research assistantship and will have no remaining semesters of eligibility at the end of the upcoming/current spring term of your current appointment, and unforeseen circumstances have impeded your progress to degree, you may apply for a graduate assistantship eligibility extension by the January 15 deadline. Doctoral students can only receive one additional 6th year of support; the application for eligibility extension must include a rationale for the request; extensions are rare and are only granted in extenuating circumstances; and reappointment is not guaranteed. Eligibility extensions will not be decided upon until sometime in April.

The following limitations are placed on doctoral student requests for support eligibility extensions in order to ensure that departmental resources are available for current and future graduate students:

  1. A maximum of one additional year of support (a 6th year for PhD students) is allowed.
  2. Extensions are not permitted for MA or MFA students.
  3. Except for in extenuating circumstances, extensions will not be granted to doctoral students who also requested and received 3/4-time appointments during their initial years of support.

Eligibility for extensions of assistantship support are rare and reappointments are not guaranteed. When extensions are granted, reappointment at the 1/2-time level is also not guaranteed. Extensions will be granted only when (a) there is sufficient departmental need to justify the extension; (b) there are sufficient departmental resources to support the extension; and (c) the student provides an acceptable rationale for the extension request when the application is submitted. Examples of acceptable rationales include: unanticipated complications or delays in the research process due to circumstances beyond the student’s control; substantial additional coursework required in order to fulfill the POS requirements of the English Department degree; or significant health conditions or life events which have unexpectedly impeded the student’s progress to degree.

To request an extension of assistantship support eligibility:

  1. Write a letter addressed to the Director of Graduate Education (DOGE) requesting the assistantship support eligibility extension stating your reason(s) for needing additional eligibility. Reasons must be related to unanticipated or exceptional circumstances which have prevented you from completing the degree requirements within the typical 5-year time period. Cleary indicate which semester(s) you are requesting support for, what program coursework and exam requirements have been completed so far, and when you plan to graduate. Submit your written request to the Graduate Program Staff Administrative Assistant (englgrad@iastate.edu) by the January 15 deadline.
  2. Ask your Major Professor(s) to submit letter(s) of support for the extension directly to the Graduate Program Staff Administrative Assistant (englgrad@iastate.edu) by the January 15 deadline.

1.8.3 Credit hour load requirements

All English Department graduate majors employed by the English Department as graduate assistants must carry at least 6 credit hours of coursework per semester (excluding summer; see “Summer assistantships and registration requirements” below), 3 of which must be in English Department course offerings. The Graduate College imposes 12 credit hours as the maximum number of credits you can take while on a graduate assistantship appointment.

New teaching assistants in the ISUComm Foundation Courses program (teaching Engl 150 and 250) and the Speech Communication 212 program should count Engl 500 or Sp Cm 513 as part of their credit hour load their first semester. To get a good start on fulfilling graduate requirements during their initial fall semester, teaching assistants should consider taking 9 credit hours.

Graduate assistants finishing their degree:

  • If completing a thesis or dissertation, you may take 6 credit hours of Engl 699 and/or audit courses to meet the credit hour load requirement. (MA student may audit only once they have a POSC form approved by the Graduate College and all POSC credits completed except for creative component credits).
  • If completing a creative component, you may only take a maximum of 3 credit hours of Engl 599. Therefore, you must be registered for other coursework (graduate or undergraduate) for a minimum of 6.0 credits which may include auditing courses (MA students may audit to meet this requirement if they have an approved POSC form by the Graduate College and all POSC credits are completed except for the creative component).

1.8.4 Credit hour load limits

Graduate assistants normally take no more than 9 credit hours, though the official Graduate College limit imposed is 12 credit hours per semester. Taking an overload of credits is not advised; therefore, if you want to take more than 12 credit hours in a semester, you must get approval from your assistantship supervisor, your assigned program adviser or major professor, and the Director of Graduate Education. Submit your request in writing to your supervisor and to your assigned program adviser or major professor for consideration. Include your current teaching load assignments and the coursework you are taking in the respective semester. Ask each of them to forward their approval to the Graduate Program Staff Administrative Assistant (englgrad@iastate.edu) for DOGE consideration.

1.8.5 Eligibility guidelines

Length of eligibility: MA

MA students are eligible for assistantship support for up to 2 years as long as they are making satisfactory progress in their programs of study and are satisfactorily fulfilling all aspects of the assistantship appointment. Semesters of eligibility for assistantships are reflected in the table below:

Graduate Hours Completed in the MajorEligibility
0-94 semesters
10-153 semesters
16-212 semesters
22 or morenot eligible

Semesters of eligibility are determined by the number of POS credit hours students have completed in their first major or specialization by the end of the semester in which the assistantship is offered. POS credit hours include only those hours which students are using to fulfill requirements in the graduate major. Hours taken outside the major—for example, credits taken to fulfill a graduate minor or undergraduate credits in foreign languages taken to fulfill a language requirement or courses taken as prerequisites—are not POS credit hours and are not considered when calculating assistantship eligibility. For overall eligibility purposes, two semesters on a quarter-time research assistantship are considered the equivalent of one semester on a half-time teaching assistantship.

Length of eligibility: MFA

MFA students are eligible for assistantship support for up to 3 years as long as they are making satisfactory progress in their programs of study and are satisfactorily fulfilling all aspects of the assistantship appointment.

Length of eligibility: PhD

Doctoral students are eligible for assistantship support for up to 5 years as long as they are making satisfactory progress in their programs of study and are satisfactorily fulfilling all aspects of the assistantship appointment. Doctoral students can be approved for only one additional year of support through their sixth year of graduate study and reappointment is not guaranteed. Requests for assistantship support extensions will not be decided upon until sometime in April (see Section 1.8.2 above “Applications for graduate assistantship support” for more details on how to apply).

1.8.6 Maintaining eligibility

You maintain assistantship eligibility from semester to semester by demonstrating the following:

  • for ALL graduate assistantssatisfactory progress toward your degree, defined by the following conditions:
    • You are not on academic probation with a GPA of 3.0 or below
    • you have no more than 6 credit hours of I (Incomplete) excluding Engl 599 or 699
    • you have completed the Graduate College English Language Requirement if applicable
    • you have filed appropriate forms (e.g., the DPS, POSC) by the required time, and
    • you have taken and passed any required examinations (e.g., the PhD portfolio assessment) by the required semester.
  • for teaching assistantssatisfactory performance of assistantship duties and obligations depending on the type of teaching assignment you receive:
    • Teaching assistants in the ISUComm Foundation Courses program (Engl 150 and 250) are reviewed each semester. Satisfactory performance of your assistantship duties and obligations includes following the guidelines established by the ISUComm Foundation Courses program, receiving satisfactory classroom observations, making satisfactory teaching adjustments following evaluations from faculty mentors, and completing Engl 500 with a grade of B or higher. Renewal Letters of Intent (LOIs) for first-year/ probationary TAs in the ISUComm Foundation Courses program will not be issued until Friday of the week final grades are due.
    • Teaching assistants in the Speech Communication program (Sp Cm 212)are regularly reviewed. Satisfactory performance includes meeting the fundamental obligations of the teaching assignment as set forth in the course orientation materials. Positive contributions to the staff, positive outcomes from class visits and reviews of grading practices, as well as responsiveness to faculty recommendations are also measures of satisfactory performance.
    • Teaching assistants teaching ESL courses (Engl 99 and 101) are regularly reviewed. Satisfactory performance includes meeting the obligations inherent to the assignment, including participating in preparatory activities, assisting in English placement testing, having satisfactory observation reports by course supervisors, attending regular meetings with course coordinators and other instructors, and following recommendations for improvement. Reappointment for the second year will also be dependent on satisfactory course evaluations.
    • Teaching assistants assigned more advanced courses must also meet the obligations inherent to such assignments; these may include participating in preparatory activities, arranging course observations, attending meetings with course committee personnel, and following recommendations for improvement.

Not meeting such criteria for satisfactory progress and/or satisfactory performance can result in suspension or revocation of your assistantship. Additional policies and procedures regarding graduate assistantships are found in the Graduate College Handbook.

1.8.7 Course releases for work at ISU, external to English

The English Department approves of graduate students securing employment opportunities in other departments/units on campus. These course releases obtained for these other opportunities are counted towards the total number of semesters of assistantship eligibility you have with the English Department. As soon as you obtain one of these assistantships with another department/unit, you must notify the Associate Chair for Operations (assocchr_engl_op@iastate.edu) as soon as possible and by no later than August 1 so other arrangements can be made to cover the course(s) you were assigned to teach. Also, you must inform your home department (English Department) Graduate Assistant Support staff member of this appointment (email the Graduate Program Staff Administrative Assistant at englgrad@iastate.edu). The appropriate tuition scholarship amount will be applied to your account after he payroll action is entered into Workday by the other unit and we have received notification from you.

1.8.8 University employment that exceeds the standard half-time appointment

Both additional work as a graduate assistant and hourly work on campus (work paid on an hourly basis that does not require the signing of a Letter of Intent) require the approval process described below in Section 1.8.9. The Department of English adheres to the Graduate College policy on additional employment (see Graduate College Handbook, “Graduate Assistantships”):

A Graduate Assistant’s “total hours (assistantship and hourly work) cannot exceed 30 hours per week.” Non-immigrant international students must abide by the terms of their visa status and immigration guidelines according to total hours worked. All hourly work for graduate students must be pre-approved by the Graduate College use the “Request to Hire a Graduate Student on an Hourly Basis” form.

Your assistantship terms are outlined in your Letter of Intent contract. To determine how many hours you may work in addition to your already-contracted employment as a graduate assistant, you should check your LOI(s) fractional appointment to determine the total number of hours you are expected to devote to your assistantship per week (1/4=10 hours, 1/2 = 20 hours, and 3/4=30 hours). The total number of hours worked—assistantship plus additional employment (assistantship or hourly work)—should equal no more than 30 hours per week. (For non-immigrant international students, this is usually no more than 20 hours per week).

1.8.9 Graduate assistantships of 3/4-time or hourly work beyond a 1/2-time assistantship at Iowa State University

While not recommended, in exceptional circumstances, graduate students may seek hourly work or assistantships within the English Department or with other departments/centers across campus that would increase their combined university appointment above the recommended 1/2-time (20 hours) per week. Continuous graduate assistantships, or a combination of a graduate assistantship and hourly employment up to a maximum of 3/4-time (30 hours) per week, may be requested at any time for U.S. students and only during the summer term for persons on student visas.

All requests for permission for hourly work or assistantship beyond 1/2-time must be approved following the procedures below. Approval to hold a 3/4-time appointment does not guarantee that a student will receive a 3/4-time assignment each semester, even if a portion of the assignment is outside the English Department and 3/4-time assignments will be made based on departmental need and available resources on a semester-by-semester basis. Thus, students on a 3/4-time appointment will receive a separate LOI for each semester, rather than for the entire academic year.

Approval will be contingent upon

  • student having a current overall GPA of at least 3.7,
  • successful completion of at least 50% of coursework from an approved POSC,
  • approval of appropriate teaching program director(s) and/or RA supervisor(s) as well as major professor(s), and
  • overall approval by the DOGE.

These policies have been developed in order to protect graduate students’ time and ensure that they are able to make expected progress to their degrees. In addition, these policies ensure that departmental support is available for current and incoming graduate students on assistantship appointments.

Thus, for students with an assistantship appointment outside of the English Department, the department reserves the right to reduce the student’s departmental appointment to 1/4-time based on departmental capacity, as long as the student will have a combined appointment of at least 1/2-time.

Request increase to 3/4-time assistantship

To request an increase to 3/4-time, graduate students must email their request to the English Department’s Associate Chair for Operations (assocchr_engl_op@iastate.edu) who will:

  1. Confirm the student’s overall GPA and successful completion of 50% of approved POSC coursework with the Graduate Program Staff Administrative Assistant
  2. Request approvals from the appropriate teaching program director(s) and/or RA supervisor(s), as well as major professor(s)
  3. Request overall approval from the DOGE

Approval is granted for a single academic year. The Associate Chair for Operations will notify the student of approval status and copy other departmental individuals as necessary.

Request continuing eligibility for 3/4-time assistantship each academic year

After the initial approval, students wishing to continue their eligibility for 3/4-time in subsequent years must have approval from their major professor, ensuring that they are continuing to make progress toward their degree along the expected timeline.

To request continued eligibility for the following academic year:

  • students must email their request before the end of each Spring semester to the English Department’s Associate Chair for Operations (assocchr_engl_op@iastate.edu)
  • the Associate Chair for Operations will request approval and documentation of continued progress to degree from the major professor

The Associate Chair for Operations will notify the student of approval status and copy other departmental individuals as necessary.

1.8.10 Leave of absence from graduate assistantship

Certain circumstances may require you to request a leave of absence from your academic program (see Academic leave-Re-entry). You may request a leave of absence from your graduate assistantship for no more than one year without extenuating circumstances while still continuing enrollment in your program. If you discontinue your enrollment, you must resign your graduate assistantship position to comply with Graduate College enrollment policies. You must submit a request for a leave of absence to the DOGE for approval (by email). Reinstatements of graduate assistantship support upon returning to enrollment after more than one year or due to extenuating circumstances are approved by the DOGE and dealt with individually on a case-by-case basis.

1.8.11 Resigning a graduate assistantship contract

If circumstances require you to resign a graduate assistantship appointment after you have signed a Letter of Intent contract, you should immediately notify in writing (by email) the Associate Chair for Operations (assocchr_engl_op@iastate.edu) and the Graduate Program Staff Administrative Assistant (englgrad@iastate.edu). If you resign before the final date of the appointment, you will be expected to fulfill assistantship responsibilities and complete duties for the current semester unless extraordinary circumstances warrant being excused from these duties. Since resignation may affect you financially, you should contact the Graduate Program Staff Administrative Assistant (englgrad@iastate.edu) regarding payroll issues.

Once you resign your assistantship, you must reapply for an assistantship appointment (unless you have been approved by the DOGE for a leave of absence from your assistantship as well as your academic program) by the January 15 deadline to be considered for the following academic year. Information regarding the deadline and assistantship application requirements will be announced via email by the Graduate Program Staff Administrative Assistant and placed on the Deadlines website. Your application will then be competitively judged with others seeking admission to the graduate program. Reappointment to a graduate assistantship position is not guaranteed.

1.8.12 Summer assistantships and registration requirements

The English Department may have a few summer assistantship appointments available to offer to graduate students. Such appointments depend both on summer budgets (which remain uncertain until late spring) and on available graduate assistantship funding. The Department Chair and Associate Chair for Operations make these appointments. A student with an assistantship appointment anywhere on campus must be making satisfactory progress toward the degree and must be enrolled for at least one credit hour (e.g., ENGL 599/699, GR ST 681B: Examination Only, GR ST 681C: Graduate Assistant Required Enrollment). Tuition scholarships are based on appointment percentage and on the number of enrolled credits in summer. If you have been on a graduate assistantship appointment during the previous fall and spring semesters but do not hold an assistantship in summer, you can continue to receive graduate assistant resident tuition assessment for 5 credit hours (considered full time in summer) as if you are on a summer appointment. However, you will want to take 6 or more credit hours in order to benefit from this option. If you are taking 1-5 credits, summer tuition is based on the number of credits and will be less expense to pay by the credit instead of receiving the graduate assistant resident tuition assessment.

1.8.13 PhD RPC students teaching upper-level courses that enroll primarily majors

Highly qualified teaching assistants in the RPC PhD program are sometimes assigned to teach upper-level undergraduate courses (200- through 400-level) for English and Technical Communication majors. However, such an assignment requires extensive additional mentoring and supervision.


Our majors naturally expect that the instruction in these upper-level courses will be of comparable quality to that they would receive from professorial faculty. Thus it is crucial that the department provide extensive mentoring and supervision for graduate assistants who teach such major courses. And graduate students should expect that their apprenticeship in this important work be conducted thoroughly and professionally.


In the event that you are selected to teach courses in the major, departmental administrators will draw from RPC PhD TAs who have completed mentoring and supervision as described in the next section. Because teaching assignments depend on a whole range of budget, staffing, and enrollment contingencies, TAs undergoing the mentoring process should understand they may not get to teach a course even if they have completed the mentoring. When there are more eligible TAs than sections available, assignments will normally be based on progress toward the degree.

Courses covered by this policy include 275, 310, 313, 411, 415, and 416. Note that advanced composition courses (302, 309, 312, and 314) have separate requirements for eligibility and a separate program of preparation and supervision.

Training and support for teaching Engl 302, 309, 312, and 314

Before teaching Engl 302, 309, 312, or 314, RPC PhD students must:

  1. teach at least two semesters of ISUComm Foundation Courses.
  2. take Engl 504 (3 credit hours) before or concurrent with teaching the advanced communication course. In Engl 504, students develop activities, materials, and assignments for advanced communication courses, respond to student work, observe other instructors’ classrooms, among other activities. They read scholarly work on teaching advanced communication courses and reflect orally and in writing on readings, observations, and teaching experiences.

1.8.14 Business cards as an employee of ISU

All graduate students who are employed by the university (on graduate assistantships) will be allowed to purchase at their own expense ISU business cards for ISU related business only. Please see the Printing and Copy Services website regarding business cards at http://www.print.iastate.edu/BusinessCards.aspx. Contact the department’s fiscal coordinator if you have any questions.

1.8.15 Funding sources in addition to monthly stipend

Tuition scholarships

For tuition purposes, all graduate assistants are assessed resident tuition rates. English Department graduate students holding half-time (or greater) assistantship appointments receive tuition scholarships at the level determined by the Graduate College (50% MA, 100% MFA and PhD during the academic year; the same percentage levels in the summer term according to the number of enrolled credit hours). Students on less than half-time assistantship appointments (but no less than quarter-time) receive half of the standard tuition scholarship benefit. Additional tuition scholarship information and policies can be found in the Graduate College Handbook.

The Department of English will fund Graduate Tuition Scholarships at the appropriate rate for graduate students who meet all of the following criteria. The student must

  1. be admitted into, currently enrolled in, and taking POS required coursework in one of the English Department MA, MFA, or PhD programs;
  2. not be on restricted admission;
  3. have a current ISU G.P.A. of at least 3.0 and not be on academic probation;
  4. be making satisfactory progress toward the degree;
  5. be eligible for assistantship support from the English Department during the appointment dates; and
  6. be on appointment as a graduate assistant each semester that the tuition scholarship is to be awarded (at least three months during fall and spring semesters or at least six weeks during summer semester).

Bridge funding for graduate assistants and post-docs

Arrival of new children

An increasing number of graduate assistant and post-doctoral appointees are beginning families during their appointment periods. Short-term funding for a reasonable period following the arrival of children is important to provide an environment that is supportive of all stakeholders.

The Department of English complies with the Graduate College policy on bridge funding for graduate assistants and post-docs for the arrival of new children. If you wish to know more about this funding, consult the Graduate College Request for Bridge Funding: Arrival of New Child form for more information, guidelines, and instructions for applying. Contact the Director of Graduate Education (DOGE) via englgrad@iastate.edu for assistance and for help completing the form.

Temporary incapacitation

Short-term funding for a short period as a result of temporary incapacitation due to accident or illness is important to provide an environment that is supportive of all stakeholders. Funding is available for up to six weeks maximum. If you wish to know more about this funding, consult the Graduate College Request for Bridge Funding: Temporary Incapacitation form for information, guidelines, and instructions for applying. Contact the Director of Graduate Education (DOGE) via englgrad@iastate.edu for assistance and help completing the form.