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Graduate assistantships supplement students’ graduate studies with experiences appropriate to their academic pursuits. Graduate teaching assistantships, graduate research assistantships, and graduate staff assistantships are available to qualified graduate students. Teaching assistants aid in the instructional mission of the university. Research assistants participate in projects that advance the institution’s research mission. Staff assistants perform professional duties in roles other than teaching or research. To be eligible for a graduate assistantship, students must be admitted to the Graduate School and be in good academic standing. Assistantship stipends vary among the units offering them, but they all are accompanied by a full tuition-waiver scholarship. Assistantships may be extended through the summer session with additional remuneration. Application forms are available from the Graduate School and online at www.grad.niu.edu/pdf/apgrdast.pdf.
The 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act mandates that any person beginning employment at Northern Illinois University after November 6, 1986, must either be a U.S. citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident, or possess current employment authorization from the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS). Graduate assistants in F-1 (student) status are eligible to accept the assistantship without BCIS authorization but must be maintaining the conditions of their status in order to continue to be eligible. All such employees, including graduate assistants, must be prepared to present original documentation to the employing department/cost center within three days of the reporting date on their employment contract or risk cancellation of the contract. Specific terms of employment and verification procedures must be included in the assistantship offering letter. Further information is available from the Graduate School.
In accordance with State statute, teaching assistants engaged in oral instruction in the classroom shall be persons who possess adequate competence in spoken English (unless the language of instruction is not English). For students whose native language is not English, this competence may be demonstrated by achieving a score of at least 50 on either the Speaking Proficiency English Assessment Kit (SPEAK) administered at Northern Illinois University or on the Test of Spoken English (TSE). Alternatively, non-native speakers of English meet the competency standard if they score at least 7 on the speaking portion of the IELTS or 24 on the speaking portion of the TOEFL iBT. Employing departments may require a higher score. Information on the TSE is available at www.toefl.org.
State law also prohibits a person from accepting or retaining a graduate assistantship if that person is in default on the repayment of any educational loan from any public source for a period of six months or more and in the amount of $600 or more, unless a satisfactory loan repayment arrangement is made no later than six months after the start of employment.
The Rhoten A. Smith Assistantship Program has been established at Northern Illinois University to help provide graduate assistantships to minorities and white women enrolled in graduate programs in which these groups are underrepresented. The program, named in honor of the university’s sixth president, represents part of the institution’s commitment to increasing access to graduate education. A Rhoten A. Smith assistantship typically pays a stipend and provides a full waiver of tuition. Only U.S. citizens and permanent residents are eligible.
Assistantships are normally awarded to begin in the fall semester. Prospective students wishing to be considered for assistantships are urged to complete their applications for admission to the Graduate School and submit the “Application for Graduate Assistantship” form well in advance of the June 1 deadline, preferably prior to February 15, since many departments make their assistantship offers early in the spring for the following academic year. Further information should be sought from the department in which students wish to major or from any other area in which they wish to work. Students who have received provisional admission to the Graduate School, or tentative admission, early admission, or admission with stipulation, may hold an assistantship during the time of that admission status. Consult the section of this catalog on academic standing for information on how academic probation and dismissal affect assistantship appointments.
Tuition is waived, via a tuition-waiver scholarship, for students during the period of their appointment to assistantships. In addition, tuition is waived for the summer session adjacent to (immediately preceding or following) the assistantship appointment period providing the student is an admitted graduate student during that summer.
Assistantships do not provide payment of students’ fees. Students who hold assistantship appointments should be prepared to pay the full amount of fees in accordance with published university procedures.
A graduate assistant is obligated to provide up to 20 hours per week of service if appointed full time, up to 15 hours per week if three-quarter time, and up to 10 hours per week if half time. A student may hold two graduate assistantships for which the terms of appointment overlap only if each of the assistantships is a halftime appointment during the period of overlap.
A student who accepts and later resigns a graduate assistantship (whether or not the term of appointment has begun) may accept another assistantship only if its term of appointment begins no sooner than the start of the academic term following the effective date of the resignation or at least one month after the effective date of the resignation, whichever is the later date, unless the written consent of the former employing unit is submitted to the Graduate School. A resignation should be submitted in writing to the employing unit. The effective date of resignation is considered to be the date on which the written resignation is received by the Graduate School. For purposes of this policy the fall term is considered to begin on August 16; the spring term is considered to begin on January 1; and the summer term is considered to begin on May 16.
An appointment to a graduate assistantship shall be for a specified period of time and is accepted by the graduate assistant with the understanding that such an appointment entails no assurance or implication that it will be renewed or extended. The employing unit or the Graduate School may terminate a graduate assistantship appointment for cause, in which case it will then notify the student of this action in writing. Failure to report for work on the reporting date specified in the offering letter constitutes grounds for immediate termination of the assistantship by the employing unit, unless that unit has agreed, in writing, to a later starting date. If an assistantship appointment is terminated during an academic term, the student should expect that there will be a proration of any associated tuition waiver scholarship with a concomitant tuition payment liability. Detailed procedures for the termination of a graduate assistantship, and for appealing such termination, are available from the office of the dean of the Graduate School.
All employees of the university must conform with the ethics policies as set forth in the university’s “Conflict of Interest Document” available in department offices and at the Graduate School. This document requires that all employees of the university, including students employed on a part-time basis or as graduate assistants, report on specified forms all real, potential, and apparent conflicts of interest.
Fellowships and Other Awards
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Graduate School Fellowships are available to a limited number of outstanding students. Full tuition (whether in-state or out-of-state) is waived for recipients via a tuition-waiver scholarship. Selection is based on academic achievement and departmental recommendation–not financial need. Recipients must enroll for at least 9 semester hours each semester. Students in programs other than doctoral programs are eligible. A student seeking nomination for one of these awards must apply through her or his major department and should contact the chair of the major department. NIU Graduate School Fellowships are awarded in the spring for the following academic year.
The Graduate School Minority/Jeffrey T. Lunsford Fellowships are awarded to superior minority students fully admitted to the Graduate School. (Provisionally admitted students, students admitted with stipulation, and students-at-large are ineligible.) These fellowships enable minority students to pursue a degree other than a doctoral degree. The stipend for this fellowship is $6000, and the fellowship includes a tuition-waiver scholarship. Support is available only to U.S. citizens and permanent residents who are members of the following underrepresented groups: African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans. Awards are made by the Graduate School with the concurrence of the students’ major departments.
Dissertation Completion Fellowships are available for a limited number of doctoral students finishing their dissertations. For full-time students, these nine-month awards carry a stipend plus a tuition-waiver scholarship. For part-time students, the awards carry a tuition-waiver scholarship, but no stipend. A student applies for one of these awards by submitting a dissertation research proposal to her or his major department, which may recommend the student to the Graduate School for this support.
Carter G. Woodson Scholars are outstanding minority students enrolled in full-time study in doctoral programs in which minorities are underrepresented. The Carter G. Woodson Scholars Program enables current minority teachers/scholars to undertake study for doctoral degrees and in the process achieve greater recognition in their fields and develop professional associations for more effective and productive academic careers. The stipend for these scholars is $14,300 per year plus a one-time $500 travel and relocation allowance; and a full tuition-waiver scholarship is granted for the duration of the award. Renewal for a second year of funding is based on academic progress toward degree completion. A student may not hold a Carter G. Woodson scholarship for more than two academic years. Support is available only to U.S. citizens and permanent residents. Awards are made by the Graduate School with the concurrence of the students’ major departments.
For information on externally funded fellowships, the graduate student should contact the Office of Sponsored Projects’ Grants and Fellowships Office which has organized files on hundreds of federal, state, and private funding programs, as well as on each of the internally funded programs listed above; detailed synopses of these have been compiled into a grants and fellowship directory. Individual descriptions include the name, type of support, purpose, eligibility requirements, award amounts, application information, and deadline dates of the granting institution or agency. Directories are currently available for review in the Graduate School and in each department and college office. Staff members of the Grants and Fellowships Office are available to assist students in using the directory and in preparing and submitting applications for externally based fellowships. In addition, some academic departments maintain information on external fellowship and student grant support in their specific fields of study.
Information on student loan programs may be obtained from the Student Financial Aid Office. Students should particularly be aware that their classification (graduate, student-at-large, or postgraduate) and the nature of their course load (graduate or undergraduate courses, and whether courses are taken for credit or audited) may affect their eligibility for certain types of financial assistance, and are encouraged to seek advice about their individual situation prior to enrolling each term.
Federal Direct Stafford Loan Program
Federal Direct Stafford Loans (DL) are low interest loans that are borrowed through the U.S. Department of Education by the student. The borrower is responsible for paying interest which accrues during the in-school period. Eligible students may borrow from $100 to $20,500 per year, up to a $138,500 combined undergraduate and graduate maximum.
A student applicant must be a citizen of the United States or eligible non-citizen; attending school at least half-time in graduate level courses per semester not including audits (graduate student-4.5 hours, eligible student-at-large-6 hours, law student-9 hours (as determined by the law school); capable of recognizing and accepting the responsibility of ultimate repayment of any loan indebtedness; not in default on any previous loans and not owing a refund on any Title IV financial aid.
All applicants must file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each year, preferably by NIU’s March 1st priority due date, and submit it via the internet at http://fafsa.gov to determine their eligibility. You can also obtain a paper application by contacting the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-433-3243. If you are hearing-impaired and have questions, please contact the TTY line at 1-800-730-8913. The amount of the loans and all other financial aid cannot exceed the cost of education. Interest on loans must be paid every quarter while the student is in school.
Students will be sent an award notification to their student Z-ID email account notifying them of their loan eligibility. Loan funds will be disbursed each semester to students enrolled at least half-time in graduate level courses at the beginning of each semester.
Graduate Student Standards of Satisfactory Academic Progress for Financial-Aid Purposes
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In accordance with the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended by Congress, NIU has established a satisfactory academic progress policy for graduate students.
Federal and state financial aid programs covered by this policy are the following: Perkins Loan, Federal Work Study (FWS), Stafford Loan (subsidized and unsubsidized), and certain alternative loans.
Students will be considered to be making satisfactory academic progress if they meet all of the following requirements. Failure to comply with any one may result in a loss of financial-aid eligibility.
Rate of Completion Requirement
A student must successfully complete 67 percent of the credit hours attempted. NIU courses resulting in withdrawals, incompletes, and courses being repeated, along with previously awarded grades of NR and NG will be counted in the calculation of hours attempted. Undergraduate courses (except audits) count in hours attempted; they may be counted as completed hours only if the courses are required (for example, as deficiencies) to meet degree requirements. Courses in which grades of A, B, C, P, S, or IP have been earned are considered successfully completed. Previously awarded grades (IN, NR, NG,) as well as current enrollments resulting in withdrawals, incompletes, audits, and courses in which grades of D, F, and U have been received are not considered successfully completed.
Grade Point Average Requirement
A student must maintain a cumulative graduate GPA of 3.00 or higher.
Maximum Time Frame Requirement
Graduate students are expected to complete degree requirements after having attempted not more than 150 percent of the number of hours of course work required for the degree program, including required deficiency courses. Student-at-large hours and credit accepted in transfer courses are part of the hours attempted, as are all terms of enrollment at NIU, whether or not financial aid was received. Example: A master’s degree in political science requires 30 semester hours. Students may receive financial aid for no more than 45 attempted semester hours if they are pursuing this degree.
Students who exceed this 150 percent credit-hour limit are immediately ineligible for financial aid. Such students may formally appeal their ineligibility for financial aid by following the guidelines under the “Appeals Procedures” section of this policy.
All graduate course work, including SAL and master’s credit hours, will be included when determining maximum time frame for Ph. D. students.
Graduate Change of Major
In the appeal process one change of graduate major will be considered. No appeal will be considered for additional graduate major changes.
Graduate Additional Degree
In the appeal process pursuit of a second master’s degree will be considered. No appeal will be considered for additional master’s degrees.
No appeal will be considered for more than one Ph.D.
The satisfactory academic progress policy is in effect for each academic year of a student’s enrollment. Satisfactory academic progress is evaluated after the completion of each semester. Students who have an unsuccessful term or terms will receive written notification of their current status.
Failure to Meet the “Rate of Completion Requirement” or “Grade Point Average Requirement”
Students who are not making satisfactory academic progress at the end of the semester will be placed on financial aid warning and will be sent a letter notifying them of their financial aid warning status. Students on financial aid warning may continue to receive financial aid for the next term of enrollment.
If the deficiency is not remedied by the end of the next semester, the student becomes ineligible for financial aid; the student’s awards are placed on hold and he or she will receive a second written notification of lack of progress.
Students may formally appeal their ineligibility for financial aid. If the appeal is approved, the student will then be awarded financial aid for another term of enrollment. If an appeal is required, the student’s SAP status will be minitored every term of enrollment.
Appeals must be submitted in writing to the Graduate School and must include a written review from the student’s graduate academic adviser. Note that federal regulations restrict those circumstances that may enable an appeal to be successful; the university does not have full discretion in this regard. The Graduate School considers the student’s written appeal, the written evaluations, and these regulations when making a recommendation to the Student Financial Aid Office.
The following reasons will be considered as extenuating circumstances:
- documented medical circumstances
- documented learning disabilities
- documented death in family
The following will not be considered as extenuating circumstances:
- performing well academically
- general adjustment to college life and/or academics
- more than two changes in academic major
- being a transfer student
- working beyond a second undergraduate degree
The Student Financial Aid Office’s appeal decisions are final and cannot be overturned by the U.S. Department of Education.
The Student Financial Aid Office supervises the awarding of a limited number of scholarships for graduate students, many of which have specific requirements for major academic classification and grade point average. Information for private scholarships can be obtained in the Student Financial Aid Office (SFAO). Scholarship funds are disbursed in two equal amounts, half for the fall semester and the other half for the spring semester, unless the donor indicates in writing that the funds should be disbursed differently. To qualify for NIU awarded endowment scholarships, an applicant must be currently admitted as an NIU student and have a minimum 3.00 GPA. An NIU Financial Aid Application must be submitted to SFAO, and a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) must be mailed to the address listed on the application by March 1. Students must also submit an individual scholarship card to the SFAO (which is available from the SFAO) by April 1 prior to the academic year for which the scholarship is desired. Students will be notified by mail in June.
Veterans’ Educational Benefits
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Military Student Services provides a liaison between the Veterans Administration and student veterans and the dependents of deceased veterans regarding their educational benefits. The office assists veterans, their widows or widowers, and their minor dependents in the processing of their applications and certification of their enrollment. Assistance is also provided when difficulties arise concerning receipt of the benefits for which students are eligible. Applications are also available for the Illinois Veteran Grant, the Illinois National Guard Grant, and the Illinois MIA/POW Scholarship.
Incoming veterans are advised to contact Military Student Services 60 days prior to the start of the semester to complete paperwork to receive their benefits. Veterans receiving benefits must complete a program card each semester and notify Military Student Services of all changes in enrollment. Inquiries concerning educational benefits for veterans and their dependents may be directed to Military Student Services, Northern Illinois University, Adams Hall 409, DeKalb, Illinois 60115-2872. Telephone: 815-753-0691. Office hours are Monday through Friday, 8:30 - 4:00.