1.7 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). ISU tuition and fees information can be found at https://www.registrar.iastate.edu/fees/. For information on insurance options and prescription drug benefit programs, see the Student and Scholar Health Insurance Program website. 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 Help Center, Engineering-LAS Online Learning, Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, etc.).

1.7.1 Appointment types

Teaching assistantships

Graduate teaching assistantships will usually be 1/2-time 20 hours per week nine-month appointments, which is the amount of employment needed to qualify for tuition scholarships 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.

1.7.2 Applications for teaching assistantships, reassignments, or extensions of support eligibility

During admission consideration

During the admission application process, students are considered and evaluated for teaching assistantship support if they indicate on the Admissions Office online 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 Assistant and review the Deadlines website for more information and specific details about applying. The application deadline for consideration is February 15 each year. You will be responsible for submitting required assistantship application materials and updating your graduate file. Applications are generally decided upon 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.

New TA applications

If, during the admission application process, you were not awarded an assistantship or you did not request consideration for an assistantship, you can apply and be considered for an assistantship. Teaching assistantship opportunities only begin in the fall semester.

TA Reassignment requests

If you are currently teaching for a particular 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. Applications for reassignment will not be decided upon until sometime in April.

TA extension of support eligibility (PhD students 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 spring term of your current appointment (check the Letter of Intent you signed or check with the Graduate Program Staff Assistant if you are unsure), you can apply for a graduate assistantship eligibility extension. Doctoral students can only receive one additional year of support (a 6th year) and reappointment is not guaranteed. Requests for assistantship extensions will not be decided upon until sometime in April.

1.7.3 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).

1.7.4 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 Assistant (englgrad@iastate.edu) for DOGE consideration.

1.7.5 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. Effective Fall 2014, doctoral students can be approved for only one additional year of support through their sixth year of graduate study.

1.7.6 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.

1.7.7 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 (by email) the Associate Chair for Curriculum and Scheduling 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 or the other department/unit must provide the English Department (your home department) a copy of your signed Letter(s) of Intent to the Administrative Specialist, Christy Kadner (ckadner@iastate.edu; 201 Ross Hall). Tuition scholarships cannot be applied to your account until the payroll action is entered and we have received a copy of your LOI.

1.7.8 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 of your Department of English assistantship supervisor and the Director of Graduate Education. 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 (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).

1.7.9 Three-quarter-time graduate assistantships at
Iowa State University

While not recommended, in exceptional circumstances, graduate students may seek 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. Approval will be contingent upon the 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.

To request an increase to 3/4-time, graduate students must email their request to the English Department’s Associate Chair for Curriculum who will:

  1. Confirm the student’s overall GPA and successful completion of 50% of approved POSC coursework with the Graduate Program Staff 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

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

1.7.10 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 also request DOGE approval (by email) for any leave of absence. 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.

1.7.11 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 Curriculum and Scheduling, your TA Supervisor, the DOGE, and the Graduate Program Staff 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 English Department Administrative Specialist, Christy Kadner (ckadner@iastate.edu; 201 Ross Hall) 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 February 15 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 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.

1.7.12 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 Curriculum 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 are not eligible for the tuition scholarship without an assistantship but can continue to receive graduate assistant resident tuition assessment for 5 credit hours (considered full time) as if you are on a summer appointment even though you may be taking 6 or more credit hours.

1.7.13 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.

1.7.14 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 Katie Thorson (thorsonk@iastate.edu; 259 Ross; 294-7837) if you have any questions.

1.7.15 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).

Minorities and students with disabilities Graduate College funding assistance programs

The Graduate College offers two financial assistance programs for qualifying graduate assistants: the Graduate Minority Assistantship Program (GMAP) and the Graduate Disability Assistantship Program (GDAP). There is no firm deadline to apply for these two programs; however, the Graduate College can fund only a limited number of these assistance opportunities, so students need to apply as early as possible for optimal consideration. Applications are approved on a first-come, first served basis, so applying as early in the calendar as possible is best.

The English Department Graduate Studies Staff initiates the GMAP nomination process on the student’s behalf based on eligible minority status a student indicates on the graduate admission application if the student is award assistantship support from the English Department. If other departments or units on campus are hiring an eligible student, it is that department or unit’s responsibility to complete the nomination process.

It is the student’s responsibility to initiate the GDAP nomination process by first working with Student Accessibility Resources (SAR) within the Dean of Students Office. A Disability Coordinator from SDR will review documentation provided by a student’s medical professional and determine eligibility for services. A Notification Letter must be received by the student and department to accompany the GDAP nomination initiated by the English Department Graduate Studies Staff. If other departments or units on campus are hiring an eligible student, it is that department or unit’s responsibility to complete the nomination process.

English Department policy statement on GMAP and GDAP funding

The following English Department policy statement explains the way in which such funding will affect the tuition and teaching/research loads of graduate assistants employed by the English Department.

GMAP (Graduate Minority Assistantship Program) and GDAP (Graduate Disability Assistantship Program) funding may be awarded by the Graduate College for qualifying students nominated by the department.

MA students will receive an additional 50% tuition scholarship each semester which provides full tuition remission; any available balance will be applied to the student’s monthly stipend.

MFA and PhD students will receive the equivalent of one assignment release from regular teaching or research assistantship loads per academic year (fall and spring semesters); any available balance will be used to cover the department’s buyout rate at the time of the assignment release in order to fund their replacement.

These policies are based on the current Graduate College amount of support per academic year and will be revisited if the available support level changes. Other options for individual students can be proposed and considered for DOGE approval with advice from the program in which the student is seeking his or her degree.

Bridge funding for graduate assistants and post-docs in connection with the 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 Request for Bridge Funding: Arrival of New Child form on the Graduate College forms page for more information, guidelines, and instructions for applying. See Christy Kadner (201 Ross; ckadner@iastate.edu) for assistance and for help completing the Hiring Unit Information section of this form.