Chapter 6. FINANCIAL SUPPORT
A graduate student on regular status is eligible to compete for appointment as
a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) or Graduate Research Assistant (GRA). Detailed
descriptions follow. All incoming and continuing students must apply by December
31 if they want to be considered for assistantships for the following academic
year. Other assistantship offers may be made to meet the needs of the department.
The ECE Graduate Advising Office in conjunction with the Graduate Recruiting Committee
decide on the GTA offers and the faculty make GRA offers. Graduate students who
are interested in working as GRAs are advised to directly contact faculty members
whose areas of research match theirs. The Graduate Committee makes assistantship
decisions for new students based on GPA, test scores (e.g., GRE), the reputation
of the institution the student is coming from, and the needs of the department.
For continuing students, the Committee looks at GPA, number of hours completed,
area of expertise, U.S. versus non-U.S. status and M.S. versus Ph.D. status. Faculty
also look at these factors, with area of expertise being the most important.
Students supported on an assistantship have their in-state tuition fees paid
for them, either by the Department or by the contract they are being funded
from. Students earning at least $4,000 in an academic year, on an assistantship,
are eligible for the U.F. Differential Scholarship that pays the out-of-state
tuition. Comprehensive Fees are paid be the student each semester.
Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA)
Graduate Teaching Assistants assist faculty in the department in teaching
lower division courses, including laboratory teaching assignments, or in
providing other appropriate professional assistance. First year GTAs with
no prior experience will not be assigned full responsibility for a lecture
Graduate Research Assistant (GRA)
Graduate Research Assistants are graduate students conducting academically
significant research under the direction of a regular faculty member, who
is generally a principal investigator on an external grant or contract.
Work Assignments and Course Loads
Assistantship students are expected to be available for performance of their duties
the entire period of the assistantship. In fall semester of each year, incoming
students must attend the departmental orientation, generally held one week prior
to the first day of class. Assistantships require a work commitment of 20 hours
each week. The duties of a GRA are determined by the Principal Investigator in
charge of the research project, and the actual number of hours worked may vary,
though an average of 20 hours each week is expected in direct support of the research
project. Research Assistants are expected to work during normal university vacation
periods, except for holidays.
The duties of GTAs are assigned by the ECE Assistant Department Head for Undergraduate
Education. Students' class schedules requested at Registration are required
to make the GTA assignments. GTAs generally have contact with undergraduate
students and may assist with lecture courses and/or teach laboratory courses
under the direction of a faculty member or be assigned to grade papers or other
support work for a faculty member.
GTAs and GRAs must take at least 12 but not more than 18 credit hours per semester.
Note that all students working on a thesis degree or PhD should add research
hours by the add deadline to bring their credit load total to 12 hours
per semester. Students will be held accountable only for research hours shown
on the plan of study. Other students should register for 12 hours if possible.
Continuing an Assistantship
The continuance or renewal of an assistantship is contingent on satisfactory academic
progress, satisfactory performance of GTA or GRA duties, and professional and
personal conduct of an exemplary nature. At the end of each semester, the faculty
member directly supervising the student will evaluate the quality and quantity
of work performed. The performance of GTAs is reviewed by the ECE Assistant Department
Head for Undergraduate Education each semester.
Students normally are expected to maintain a B average in order to hold an
assistantship. However, some students occasionally run into temporary difficulties.
The ECE Graduate Advising Office will usually terminate an assistantship if
a student's GPA falls below 3.0 cumulative for more than one semester.
Duration of Assistantship Support
Graduate Teaching assistantships are made upon entrance into the the program and
for an academic year. Very few GTA positions are available during the summer.
However, M.S. students are strongly urged to seek out research support in the
form of a GRA as early as possible. There are no limitations on the research funding
except as stipulated by the principal investigator or the research contract. Once
a student completes the M.S. degree, however, he or she cannot be supported on
a GRA until admitted into the Ph.D. program or into another M.S. program on campus.
Ph.D. students have a major commitment to research. As such, it is customary
for a Ph.D. student to hold a GRA. Departmental support (in the form of a GTA)
for Ph.D. students is offered to new students and continuing students competitively
on a funds-available basis. Students holding a GTA are generally expected to
obtain GRA support before becoming a Ph.D. candidate (see Section 2.1). Financial
support questions for Ph.D. students should be coordinated through their ECE
Changing Between a GRA and a GTA
Students may switch from a GTA position to a GRA position if they find a suitable
research project and arrangements are made with the Principal Investigator in
charge of that research project. This switch is only permitted one week prior
to the employment date.
A student holding a GRA position, however, cannot be automatically switched
to a GTA position. A formal request must be made to the ECE Graduate Counselor
during the semester preceding the semester in which the change is to be effective.
In addition, the student should request that the Principal Investigator write
a letter to the Graduate Counselor explaining the circumstances of the GRA termination
and an assessment of the student's potential as a GTA. The final disposition
of this matter depends on the availability of departmental funds, and the student's
relative ranking among others who qualify for such funds at the time. This procedure
applies to M.S. and Ph.D. students.
The ECE Department has several Fellowships, Scholarships and Awards available.
Bradley Fellowships are available each year to the outstanding U.S., Ph.D. applicants
applying to the ECE Department. Fellowships are awarded in the amount of $25,000.,
plus the in-state and out-of-state tuition fees for three academic years. The
minimum GPA for consideration is 3.8 and thus must be maintained for renewal of
fellowship each semester.
The Bradley Fellowship is the most prestigious award available within the ECE
ECE Doctoral Department Head Fellowship
The ECE Doctoral Department Head Fellowships are awarded to outstanding Ph.D.
applicants applying to the ECE Department. Fellowship awards are made for one
academic year to include a monthly stipend, plus the in-state and out-of-state
tuition fees. The minimum GPA for consideration is 3.8.
For the second and third year of studies, the faculty advisor of each student
will fund these fellows through research grants to include a monthly stipend,
plus the in-state and out-of-state tuition fees.
Health Insurance Premium Compensation
Virginia Tech offers a health insurance plan for graduate students appointed
on a GTA or GRA. The program provides funding for a portion of the cost of health
insurance for full-time graduate students receiving a full or partial assistantship.
Please contact the Student Medical Insurance
Office for detailed information about the University's health insurance
plan, coverage, costs, effective dates and other relevant information.
Student Services Building
Blacksburg, VA 24061
Phone: 1-888-234-0298 (toll free) or 540-231-6226, or 540-231-6303
Purchasing this plan is optional for U.S. citizens and permanent residents.
International students are required to purchase insurance coverage for the duration
of their stay.
Outstanding International Graduate Student Award
This award is sponsored by the Center for Power Engineering at Virginia
Tech. The competition is open to all international students in the Bradley
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. The amount of the award
is $1,000 and is based on the student's academic and research performance.
This is awarded in the spring of each year.
Graduate Teaching Assistant Award
This award recognizes outstanding contributions to the Department's instructional
program by a Graduate Teaching Assistant. The winner is selected based
on student evaluations of teaching and faculty recommendations. The winner
receives a $100 cash prize and a certificate. The winner is also usually
nominated for the University GTA award.
William A. Blackwell Award
This award is presented annually to the ECE graduate student who is judged
to have made the best research presentation during the year. The award
is named in honor or Dr. William A. Blackwell who was a faculty member
in the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering from 1966
until his retirement in 1988, serving as Department Head from 1966 to 1981.
Students are nominated by faculty, usually based on a presentation at one
of the research area seminars within the Department. The winner receives
a cash prize between $200 and $300 and a certificate.
The Rappaport Wireless Communication Scholarship
This endowed scholarship, established by Theodore S. Rappaport, a member of the
faculty, and his wife, Brenda M. V. Rappaport, provides support to seniors or
graduate students who are interested in pursuing a career or graduate studies
in the wireless communication field. Applications are solicited during the spring
semester. The Department's Awards Committee selects the winner. The dollar amount
awarded each year may vary, but it is typically between $500 and $600.
(For a listing of outside fellowships available, see the Graduate
6.3 Student Loans
Loans to students who are not otherwise supported are available through
the University's Financial Aid Office in Burruss Hall.
6.4 The Graduate Coop Program
Similar to the undergraduate coop program, employment opportunities for on-campus
graduate students at extended-campus locations are available through the Graduate
Coop Program. A minimum of one and a maximum of three semesters' work is required.
Further information is available from the Graduate Coop Office in Sandy Hall.
Ph.D students must pass the Ph.D qualifying exam prior to applying fro COOP.
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This page last modified on January 14, 2005