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Graduate Assistantship Rules & Regulations

Procedures to Apply

To apply for a Graduate Assistantship (GA), applicants complete an Assistantship Application.  Applications are submitted to the Graduate School for processing; however, each hiring unit makes independent hiring decisions and notifies the Graduate School accordingly.  Appointments may be for any duration up to 12 months.  Renewal is not automatic; rather it depends upon the academic performance of the student, the number of credits in which the student is enrolled, the quality of work performed, and the needs of the University.  Renewals may be processed from year to year using a "Graduate Assistantship Hiring Notification" submitted by the hiring agent to the Graduate School. The Graduate School reviews eligibility each term and is responsible for coding GA's, which in turn informs billing.

The hiring unit offering the assistantship determines the level and type of assistantship that is awarded based on the available tuition remission credit hours allocated by the Graduate School or available assistantship support paid by research grants.  Faculty and staff supervisors are responsible for monitoring the graduate assistant's performance and work hours.  Graduate Assistants are expected to provide a value-added service during the academic semester awarded and during working hours as agreed upon by both the supervisor and student.

Minimum Requirements for Graduate Assistants
  1. Graduate Assistants must be regularly admitted graduate students in good academic standing in their degree program and the Graduate School.
  2. International students must meet admission requirements and may have select departmental requirements depending on the type of assistantship.
  3. Graduate Assistants must maintain active status and be registered for at least 9 graduate credit hours during the fall and spring semesters and, if their assistantship responsibilities continue during the summer, 1 credit hour during any summer session. (See further discussion below on required enrollment.)  Summer enrollment is not required to maintain an Assistantship in the Fall and Spring semesters.
  4. If selected as a Graduate Assistant, students must successfully pass a criminal background check.  Passage requirements are determined by Human Resources and the Graduate School and may be based on appointment type and expected duties.
Tuition Reduction

The following represents the University and Board of Regents' policy for the Graduate Assistantship program.

Per Board of Regents Policy 5:22, Graduate Assistants receive partial tuition funding for all credits enrolled and they become eligible for a special tuition rate for their remaining tuition owed.  For on-campus, South Dakota resident and non-resident students, there is a 2/3 tuition reduction provided (not including fees); students are responsible for 1/3 of in-state resident tuition rate regardless of state of residency ($70.15 per credit hour for FY 2015).  Graduate students enrolled in USD's online courses and education centers are eligible for a special discounted tuition rate of $286.10 per credit hour for FY 2015 ($414.85 is the regular rate). Graduate Assistants must be hired by the semester's 100% refund deadline to receive the tuition discount.  The PDC program, through the School of Education, is managed uniquely in that online courses are grandfathered as state-support courses.  Please note, not all graduate credit hours are eligible for the tuition remission or the discounted rate.  

Tuition reduction will be awarded based on notification from the hiring unit to the Graduate School.

There are two types of summer Graduate Assistantships.  Again, summer enrollment is not required to maintain an Assistantship for the Fall and Spring semesters.

     A. Assistantships which provide the reduced tuition rate for summer credits without a stipend and without a work or service requirement. To be eligible for this type of Assistantship, the graduate student must have been on an Assistantship the previous fall and spring semesters where there was a stipend and service/work requirement. The stipend and work/service requirement of the fall and spring semesters suffices for the summer semester. However, use of this option is at the discretion of the hiring unit based on their budget decisions.

     B. Assistantships which include the reduced tuition rate for all summer credits, a summer stipend, and a work/service requirement. Again, this option is at the discretion of the hiring unit based on their budget decisions.

Required Enrollment

Graduate Assistants at USD are required to enroll in a minimum of 9 credit hours for fall and spring semesters and, if they are awarded an Assistantship during the summer (either option A or B noted above), they must enroll in at least 1 credit hour in the summer semester all inclusive semester (May through August).

The Graduate School offers a few justified exceptions to the 9 credit hour requirement.  For example, Teaching Assistants in English may enroll in a minimum of 6 credit hours for the fall and spring semesters.  Also, students in their final semester of study who provide evidence that fewer than 9 credit hours remain for graduation will be granted exceptions by the Graduate Dean or designee.  Students requesting this exception may email their request to  A completed and signed Program of Study form should be included if the student has not already submitted one to the Graduate School.

Graduate Assistants need approval from the Graduate Dean to enroll in more than 12 credit hours, unless a program's curriculum was approved by the Graduate Council to require more than 12 credit hours per term for degree progression.

If a graduate student fails to meet his/her academic assistantship obligations and/or resigns from the position, the assistantship will be terminated and the tuition charges re-billed for the semester at the non-reduced rate. If the GA falls below the "approved minimum" required number of credit hours for the semester, the GA will be non-renewed in the subsequent semester. The Graduate Dean may grant exemptions in response to a request by the graduate program director or coordinator.

Work Requirements

A GA work/service component is expected for an Assistantship award for the greater good of the student learning experience and the University, with the exception of the Summer Option A described above.  Thus, a teaching or grading assignment would be required for an awarded Teaching Assistantship, research would be required for a Research Assistantship, and administrative service would be required for an Administrative Assistantship.  Graduate Assistants may not work more than 49.4% FTE.  The primary purpose of a Graduate Assistantship is to provide students with professional experience and the necessary financial resources to attend a graduate program.

Each year the Board of Regents establishes a minimum rate for a stipend.  Graduate Assistants are expected to work a full semester at their assigned percent of FTE (percent of 40 hours per week or equivalent for the semester) in order to receive a semester's worth of compensation or the full four-week summer session to receive the full four-week summer session compensation.  The dollar amount of the stipend may be prorated accordingly if the GA does not work the full semester or summer session. Again, Summer Option A allows for the fall/spring stipend and work requirement to suffice for the summer semester.

Academic Standing

A graduate student must be fully admitted to both the Graduate School and an academic program.  Students admitted provisionally may not be Graduate Assistants.  Students admitted contingently for any other reason than receipt of official transcripts are not eligible.  Moreover, a Graduate Assistant must make satisfactory academic progress each term toward completion of the graduate degree being sought.  Students who fail to make satisfactory progress are subject to academic probation.  If the cumulative GPA of graduate students receiving Assistantships falls below a 3.0, the student will not continue to receive the Assistantship without the expressed approval of the Graduate Dean.

Minimum Stipends

The minimum stipend is $3,475 per fall/spring semesters of FY2015 and $868.00 per 4 week summer session (if Summer Option B is awarded).

Personnel Rules

There are three classifications of Graduate Assistants:

  • Graduate Teaching Assistantships (GTA) may be awarded in four categories. Regardless of category, the stipend is paid as a wage or salary over the course of the semester in which the student is employed.
    • Classroom Instructors are engaged in direct teaching. They are responsible for instructional delivery and are the instructor of record for the course.
    • Instructional and/or Laboratory Support personnel provide instructional support to an instructor or lead instructor in a team-teaching situation. They are generally responsible for a variety of instructional support duties such as proctoring exams, preparing course materials, and/or setting up labs.  They support, rather than replace the instructor and are not the instructor of record for the course. 
    • Grading or Other Paperwork Support personnel provide only grading and paperwork support for an instructor.  They are not responsible for any other instructional support or teaching activities.
    • Non-credit bearing, instruction affiliated, or academic-related activities and projects.
  • Graduate Research Assistantships (GRA) are assigned to research faculty to assist in the research process.  The GRA stipend is paid as a wage or salary over the course of the semester in which the student is employed.
  • Graduate Administrative Assistantships (GAA) work with department heads, deans, directors or other administrators to perform administrative and/or technical tasks/projects.  They may be assigned undergraduate mentoring responsibilities.  They are not responsible for any instructional support, teaching, or research activities.  The GAA stipend is paid as an hourly wage calculated as the stipend offered for the semester divided by the number of hours the student is expected to work during the semester.  GAA's are required to complete and submit electronic time sheets. The total stipend amount attainable must meet the minimum standard set by the BOR.

Graduate Assistants are not required to work on official state employee holidays or during regular academic breaks. Departments may require students to make up hours lost due to state holidays and academic breaks.

The University of South Dakota is an equal employment opportunity employer.

Accommodation for students with disabilities will be made per the University's Disability Services Policy.

Graduate Assistants are considered temporary employees and are not employed in a permanent classification. Any grievance arising from this employment relationship shall be brought under non-faculty exempt procedures (Policy 4.8). Graduate Assistants are not eligible for benefits including sick and annual leave, health and life insurance, and retirement.

Student Driver Policy

For more information about Graduate Assistantships, contact the Graduate School at or 1-800-233-7937.