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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 partial 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 http://niu.edu/grad/funding/assistantships.shtml.
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. Alternatively, non-native speakers of English meet the competency standard if they score at least 7 on the speaking portion of the IELTS, a 68 on both the Oral Fluency and Pronunciation portions of the PTE Academic, or 24 on the speaking portion of the TOEFL iBT.
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 partial waiver of tuition. Only U.S. citizens and permanent residents are eligible.
Policies governing assistantships and associated tuition waivers are available in NIU’s Academic Policies and Procedures Manual.
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 Sponsored Programs Administration 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 Financial Aid and Scholarship Office. A student’s 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, including loans. Students are encouraged to seek advice about their individual situation prior to enrolling each term. In general, students-at-large are not eligible for federal student loans. Early admit and admitted graduate students taking preparatory course work are strongly encouraged to contact Financial Aid prior to each semester.
Federal Direct Loan Program
Federal Direct Loans (DL) are low interest loans that are borrowed through the U.S. Department of Education by the student. Graduate student borrowers are responsible for paying interest which accrues during the in-school period. Eligible students may borrow a maximum of $20,500 per academic year, up to a $138,500 combined undergraduate and graduate aggregate maximum. The Graduate PLUS loan may be borrowed, pending a credit check, up to a student’s cost of attendance less all other aid received. There is no lifetime limit on the amount of Graduate PLUS loan a student may borrow.
To borrow a federal student loan, a student applicant must be a citizen of the United States or eligible non-citizen; admitted to a graduate program; attending school at least half-time in graduate level courses not including audits, (6 credit hours for law students and students-at-large, 4.5 hours for graduate students per semester); not in default on any previous loans; or owe a refund on aTitle IV grant; be making satisfactory academic progress; and agree to use any student financial aid received solely for education purposes.
All applicants must file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each year, and submit it at studentaid.gov to determine their eligibility. The amount of the loans and all other financial aid cannot exceed the cost of education.
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. An overview of NIU’s Satisfactory Academic Progress Policy for Graduate Students is provided here. The official policy is available from the Student Financial Aid Office and at www.niu.edu/financial-aid. Additional detail on each of the standards of satisfactory academic progress, the appeal process, criteria for appeals, and the conditions for reinstatement of aid are included in the policy.
Federal and state financial aid programs covered by this policy are the following: Federal Work Study (FWS), Direct Unsubsidized Loan, GRAD PLUS, and certain private loans. Institutional programs such as scholarship, tuition waivers, and stipends are not subject to federal Satisfactory Academic Progress standards.
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 (PACE)
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, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, 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 C-, D, F, WP, WF, I, or 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.
Academic Standing Requirement
Students must remain in good academic standing with the University. If a student is a candidate for dismissal, even if the student is retained or reinstated, the student is considered to not be meeting this standard for that semester.
Maximum Time Frame Requirement
Federal law limits the maximum time frame for which a student can receive federal financial aid including student loans. To continue to be eligible for federal aid, graduate students’ hours attempted must not have exceeded the maximum number of credit hours established for their program and listed in the table below. The maximum time frame exceeds the minimum program requirements with an allowance for electives, internships, disruptions in enrollment, changes in concentration, and work on thesis or dissertations that exceed the minimum requirement. Student-at-large graduate hours and credit hours accepted for transfer courses are included in hours attempted.
||Maximum Hours Attempted
|Master’s degree unless otherwise published in the Graduate Catalog or at www.niu.edu/financial-aid
|Combined Master of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics and Internship Program
|Master of Arts in Communicative Disorders with a specialization in Rehabilitation Counseling
|Master of Arts in Psychology
|Master of Arts in Teaching with a specialization in Elementary Education
|Master of Fine Arts in Art
|Master of Physical Therapy
|Master of Public Administration
|Master of Public Health
|Master of Science in Applied Family and Child Studies
|Master of Science in Education in Counseling
|Master of Science in Education in Special Education
|Master of Science in Nursing with a specialization in Nursing Education
|Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling
|Doctoral degree unless otherwise published in the Graduate Catalog or at www.niu.edu/financial-aid
|Doctor of Audiology
|Doctor of Philosophy in Counselor Education and Supervision
|Doctor of Philosophy and Psychology
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 Program
In the appeal process one change of graduate program will be considered. No appeal will be considered for additional graduate program changes. One change of research dissertation or thesis will be considered for doctoral students.
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 semester of a student’s enrollment, regardless of financial aid status or eligibility. 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 student is not meeting the standards of progress by the end of the next semester of attendance, the student becomes ineligible for financial aid; the student’s awards are canceled.
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 monitored after every term of enrollment.
Appeals must be submitted in writing to the Financial Aid and Scholarship Office and must include a written review from the student’s graduate academic adviser. Note that federal regulations restrict those circumstances considered for appeal; the university does not have full discretion in this regard.
The following reasons will be considered as extenuating circumstances:
- documented extenuating medical circumstances that prohibit course participation
- documented death in immediate family
The following will not be considered as extenuating circumstances:
- not performing well academically
- not adjusting in general to college life and/or academics
- changing academic program more than once
- being a transfer student
- working beyond a master’s degree without admission to a doctoral program
- taking courses not required by the program to establish enrollment level eligibility for an assistantship or fellowship.
The Financial Aid and Scholarship Office’s appeal decisions are final and cannot be overturned by the U.S. Department of Education.
The official Satisfactory Academic Progress policy published on the Financial Aid and Scholarship Office’s website is the university’s official policy and may have information more recent than the catalog publish date.
A limited number of scholarships for graduate students are awarded through the academic departments, many of which have specific requirements for major academic classification and grade point average. Application requirements, deadlines, access to the on-line scholarship application system, and other scholarship resources can be found through the Financial Aid and Scholarship website at niu.edu/financial-aid/scholarships. Information about tuition waivers can be found on the Graduate School website at niu.edu/grad/funding/waivers. Scholarship funds are generally disbursed in two equal amounts, half for the fall semester and the other half for the spring semester, unless the donor or awarding department indicates in writing that the funds should be disbursed differently.differently.
Veterans’ Educational Benefits
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Military and Post-Traditional 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 and Post-Traditional 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 and Post-Traditional Student Services of all changes in enrollment. Inquiries concerning educational benefits for veterans and their dependents may be directed to Military and Post-Traditional Student Services, Northern Illinois University, Campus Life Building, Room 240.