Western Kentucky University awards assistantships to select graduate students. Educational
goals at WKU are met in at least two important ways by the Graduate Assistantship
program. Graduate assistantship stipends serve as the primary means of support for
many graduate students enabling them to pursue higher degrees and grow professionally
through the development and application of discipline-based knowledge. At the same
time, the University gains the benefit of assistant-provided, high quality services
at reasonable cost. Thus, the graduate assistantship program is mutually beneficial
to both the student and the University.
Note: graduate assistantship scholarships cannot be awarded during the Winter term.
Appointment to an assistantship is contingent upon admission into a degree program,
the programmatic needs of the hiring department and/or the allocation of funds for
the position. Specific assignment of duties is made by the hiring department.
In order to be eligible for a graduate assistantship, you must be enrolled in at least
6 credits per semester in a graduate degree program, maintain satisfactory academic
progress in that program, and remain in good standing. Any semester in which you are
enrolled less than 6 credits will be treated as your last semester for the purpose
of graduate assistantship appointments. Students who are in their last semester may
enroll part-time and receive full benefits as a GA. Academic programs or hiring units
may also impose their own eligibility requirements.
If you have applied for federal financial aid assistance, federal law requires these
additional awards be considered as part of your total financial aid package. Any tuition
scholarship may reduce the total amount of financial aid available to you. Please
direct any inquires to the Student Financial Assistance office.
A criminal background check is a prerequisite for employment as a graduate assistant.
Appointment as a graduate assistant may be denied on the basis of prior criminal convictions
that would compromise your ability to perform your assigned tasks or compromise the
safety of others.
There are additional language requirements and tax implications for international
students participating in the program. Please read this section carefully if you are an international student interested in becoming a graduate assistant
The Graduate Catalog provides definitions for determining full-time status of a graduate
student. In any given term, graduate students are considered full-time when they are
registered for 9 hours in Fall and Spring terms, and 6 hours in Summer terms.
In order to be exempt from FICA tax, students must be (1) enrolled in at least ½ time
status, (2) regularly attending classes in the semester and (3) working as a graduate
Students must be “scheduled” to work less than 30 hours per week in order to have
*A schedule is determined by the employing department and submitted to Graduate School
office via an EPAF. If an EPAF is submitted to Graduate School with an incorrect schedule,
the EPAF will not be approved.
Failure to meet the above criteria will result in the student paying Social Security
(6.20%) and Medicare (1.45%) tax on the taxable gross paid for the pay period. Each
department is responsible for the employer-matching portion of the tax and it will
come out of the same funding department being charged for the student’s salary.
Keep in mind that graduate students are limited in the number of hours they may work.
If the student works 30 or more hours, they will become subject to FICA taxes.
A tuition reduction you receive for graduate education is qualified, and therefore
tax free, if both of the following requirements are met:
It is provided by an eligible educational institution.
You are a graduate student who performs teaching or research activities for the educational
You must include in income any other tuition reductions for graduate education that
Please note: all graduate assistants are charged in-state tuition rates (regardless
of residency) for all terms except Winter.
A Graduate Research Assistant (GR) is employed by the university to perform duties
related to a scholarly project or program of research under the guidance and direction
of faculty members. The duties of a research assistant involve applying and mastering
conceptual and theoretical ideas, practices, or methods of scholarship. Research Assistants
may be employed outside their academic department in a capacity in which the assistant
brings knowledge or skills related to their program of study.
A Graduate Teaching Assistant (GT) is employed by the university to provide direct
support for the teaching mission of the unit. Teaching Assistants do not have primary
responsibility for a course, but they may serve as discussion leaders, graders, leaders
of laboratory sections,or may assist in capacities such as preparation of assignments,
and other administrative duties necessary for a course.
A Graduate Assistant Instructor (GI) supports the teaching mission of the unit in
a more advanced capacity than a teaching assistant by serving as instructor of record
for a lower division course or courses (numbered 100-299). Graduate Assistant Instructors
must complete additional training prior to serving as an instructor of record.
The combined load of teaching responsibilities and graduate course enrollment may
not exceed 15 hours per semester.
The Center for Faculty Development (CFD) mentors graduate students via the Graduate Assistant Teaching Institute (GATI) training program. The Graduate School encourages all graduate students who have
an interest and passion for teaching to complete the GATI training program. The GATI
training program must be completed if a graduate student wishes to serve as an instructor
of record under the Graduate Assistant Instructor (GI) designation. If you are interested
in completing the GATI training program, please contact the Center for Faculty Development.
A General Graduate Assistant (GG) is employed by the university in a capacity related
to their program of study, but they are not engaged in activities directly related
to research or teaching. Note: General Graduate Assistantships are not eligible for
WKU offers an excellent subsidized health insurance plan which graduate assistants
may opt-in to at minimal cost. Students with a 20-hour/week assistantship are eligible
to enroll in the Graduate Assistant Health Insurance program. Upon processing of the
Graduate Assistantship Agreement, you will receive an email with instructions as to
how to enroll. You must opt-in to this program each semester you wish to participate.