Financing graduate education is an important topic for all students. There are numerous sources of support from inside the University and from external agencies that afford funding for graduate students. The most likely source of support is through an assistantship, fellowship, or scholarship offered by the College or Department.
The Graduate School also offers a number of funding programs coordinated by the Office of Graduate Fellowships and Awards Administration. Government agencies, foundations, professional associations, and other private entities also offer support of graduate education.
There are two main types of graduate assistantships at Penn State, Teaching Assistantships (TA) and Research Assistantships (RA), and they are the most common forms of graduate support.
The financial support for RAs is usually provided by external grants made to individual faculty members; support for TAs is controlled by the individual department. Teaching and research assistantships include a stipend, tuition remission, and a subsidy for medical insurance. Recipients are assigned to a faculty adviser who supervises the experience. Graduate assistants support undergraduate instruction or undertake research projects.
For the purposes of codification, the student's effort is assessed using a forty-hour week as a nominal “full-time” effort, so that a “half-time” assistantship (the usual arrangement) implies a commitment to an average of twenty hours per week of effort for the entire semester (eighteen weeks).
It is in the best interests of the student and the department that the student progress to graduation in a timely fashion. Under normal circumstances, an M.S. student should achieve the requisite credits as a half-time graduate assistant in three semesters (two for IUG students); a Ph.D. student should achieve all required credits beyond the M.S. degree in six semesters.
Students must satisfy the minimum course requirement to retain their assistantship and are strongly encouraged to carry maximum credits. International students must carry a full-time load.
For more details on graduate assistantships, please refer to the Graduate Programs Guide.
Fellowships are highly prestigious financial support packages that typically include a stipend, tuition remission, and a subsidy for medical insurance. They derive from University or outside awards. Unlike assistantships, they do not have a required work commitment; they are duty-free. Recipients must be enrolled in degree programs and be registered full time. Fellowship recipients are not permitted to accept employment without obtaining approval from the unit and/or agency supporting the fellowship.
Undergraduates who are considering graduate school should start looking for fellowship opportunities during the junior year. The University Fellowship Office has a list of some of the more prominent external graduate fellowships.
Scholarships are financial awards that support graduate study. Most are awarded by colleges, graduate programs, or outside funding agencies and are based on academic merit. Some awards factor in financial need or other grantee-specified criteria.
Current students do not need to apply for most internal scholarships. All aerospace engineering students are automatically considered. A committee selects scholarship recipients based on academic performance (merit-based scholarships) and, in some cases, financial need (need-based scholarships). Students must fill out a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form to be eligible for need-based scholarships.
External scholarships are funded by other organizations than Penn State, which include foundations, associations, international non-government and government organizations, agencies, etc. The University Fellowships Office maintains a list of some of the more prominent general scholarships.
Funding Through The Graduate School
The Graduate School at Penn State offers resources for various types of funding, including external funding sources, on their website.