Department of History College of Arts and Sciences
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Guide for Graduate Students

Financial Aid

Graduate assistantships
Graduate fellowships
Other financial assistance

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Graduate Assistantships

Graduate Assistantships:
The department offers a limited number of graduate assistantships, divided into grading and teaching assistantships. M.A. students normally apply for grading assistantships and Ph.D. students for teaching assistantships. Renewal of assistantships is normal, but it is not guaranteed. In addition to the department and university budget, which has never yet been a factor in renewals, it depends on academic performance and the fulfillment of the assistantship duties. We require no lower than a 3.25 GPA for the first renewal and no lower than a 3.5 for the second. Anyone applying for an assistantship who is already in the program will have to meet this requirement at the time of application. No one may hold an assistantship for more than five years (seven years for a Ph.D. student who had an assistantship for two or more years as a M.A. student at The University of Memphis). The normal assistantship period for M.A. students is two years, which is rarely if ever extended, and only for a compelling reason. You must apply for an assistantship (get the application at (pdf)) by January 15.

Whether or not you have applied for an assistantship, you may be presented with confusing information on the university’s financial aid webpages that may sound as if you have been awarded an assistantship. They mean this as hypothetical, in case you get one, but it is easy to misread. They will not change the wording, and every year it confuses several applicants to our program. Unless you have applied for an assistantship from the History Department and received an e-mail from the departmental Graduate Coordinator awarding you one, you do not have an assistantship.

At present grading assistantships pay $7300 per academic year, plus all tuition and fees; teaching assistantships pay $8600, plus tuition and fees. In addition, in the recent past we have able to offer an additional stipend to many assistants because most assistants are eligible for government financial aid (not a loan, but pay for work as a graduate assistant). To make this possible, we strongly encourage all potential assistants who are U.S. citizens or holders of green cards to submit an application for federal financial aid at

Time is of the essence in obtaining this government money, since the Graduate School will stop awarding work-study money when its budget is exhausted. This may happen even if the government tells you are eligible for such aid. The first week day in January is the first day you can file, and you should do so in January, as soon after January 1 as possible. While you will have to know your basic income for the previous year to file, you do not have to have all the exact financial information needed for filing income tax, or even have your W-2 form, since you can revise your application when new information becomes available. Waiting to get it all may make your application too late. You must indicate that you are interested in college work-study funds (you will not have to do any additional work for this).

Please e-mail the Graduate Coordinator (currently as soon as you apply, and as soon as you get notification of eligibility or non-eligibility for FAFSA college work study, please send the Graduate Coordinator a copy of your financial aid eligibility letter. You do not have to provide us any financial information that you want to remain confidential; the eligibility letter merely tells you what financial aid you are eligible for.

This is very important for our graduate assistants, and I urge you to do it, although I know it is annoying to have to take this trouble when you don’t even know if you will have an assistantship or not.

Normally, grading assistants assist a professor in a large lecture section, attend the professor’s lectures, grade examinations and papers, lead discussion sections, and consult with students. Teaching assistants normally grade for the first year that they have an assistantship and then teach one class the first semester of the second year, an online course if possible. After that the normal assignment is to teach two sections of World History (History 1110 or 1120) or U.S. History (History 2010 or 2020) per semester. However, we are increasingly asking teaching assistants to grade after the first year, because we believe that doing so will leave much more time for their work. We normally give priority in this to three kinds of teaching assistants: those studying for comps, those near the end of the dissertation, and those requesting it. We may also ask some assistants to teach off-campus classes. In addition, assistants are often asked to assist in Department of History activities like History Day. Instead of their normal duties, we may ask either kind of assistant to assist a professor or the department in research or other activities or lead discussion sections.

You must have an M.A. before you can be a teaching assistant; M.A. students may apply only for a grading assistantship.

All new assistants, whether grading or teaching assistants, must take History 7020/8020, Seminar for Teaching Assistants as soon as possible, optimally in the first semester.

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Last Updated: 3/12/14