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Financial Aid

R SOC graduate students can explore several different types of financial aid, including graduate assistantships, fellowships, and tuition grant-in-aid programs. Special programs are also available for qualified minority applicants.

Up-to-date information on tuition and fees can be obtained from the Bursar's Office . The University Office of International Programs compiles a list of Estimated Initial Graduate Student Expenses that includes tuition, living expenses, books/supplies, and health insurance.

Graduate Assistantships

For qualified applicants, we have a limited number of graduate assistantships. A graduate assistantship carries a stipend plus a waiver of all tuition and fees. The vast majority of our assistantships are research assistantships in which students work closely with faculty on research projects. The remainder are teaching assistantships.

Most of our graduate assistantships are half-time assistantships (20 hours of work per week). The two other levels of assistantship are a quarter-time assistantship (10 hours of work per week) and a three-quarter time assistantship (30 hours of work per week).

Our assistantship stipends are highly competitive with other leading universities. For 2011-12, the stipend for a master's student in our program with a half-time assistantship is $7,627.50 per semester in the Fall and Spring semesters. For those master's students on assistantship in the Summer semester, the level of summer support is $5,100. For 2011-12, the stipend for a Ph.D. student in our program with a half-time assistantship is $8,595 per semester in the Fall and Spring semesters. For those Ph.D. students on assistantship in the Summer semester, the level of summer support is $5,748.

Assistantship offers are typically made for up to one year at a time. Continuation of a student's assistantship support beyond the initial offer is contingent on the student's assistantship performance, academic performance, and the availability of assistantship funding.

The maximum number of semesters that a master's student is eligible for an assistantship is 6 (counting Fall, Spring and Summer semesters). That works out to 2 calendar years. A student may receive less than the maximum.

The maximum number of semesters that a Ph.D. student is eligible for an assistantship is 10 (again counting Fall, Spring and Summer semesters). That works out to about 3½ calendar years. A student may receive less than the maximum. For Ph.D. students in one of our dual-title programs (Demography, Human Dimensions of Natural Resources and the Environment, International Agriculture and Development, or Women's Studies), the maximum number of semesters of assistantship eligibility is 11. Dual-title Ph.D. students have an extra semester of eligibility because of extra course work involved in a dual-title degree.

Students with an assistantship are expected to maintain a grade point average (GPA) of at least 3.20 (on a 4.00 scale).

You will automatically be considered for an assistantship when you apply unless you inform us otherwise.

Benefits

Graduate assistants at Penn State have a benefits package that is one of the best in the country. For graduate assistants, Penn State subsidizes 80% of the annual premium cost for the Penn State Graduate Assistant/Graduate Fellow Health Insurance Plan. Penn State also covers 70% of the annual premium cost of health insurance for spouses and children of graduate assistants. For graduate assistants, Penn State also subsidizes 80% of the cost of dental and vision insurance, with 70% subsidies for spouses and children of graduate assistants.

More information on health insurance for graduate assistants and their spouses and children is available from the University Health Services website.

Graduate assistantship stipends at Penn State are exempt from FICA (Social Security & Medicare) taxes. Penn State was able to obtain this exemption because graduate assistants are students, first and foremost, and not employees. The FICA tax rate for employees is currently 7.65%, so this is a significant savings.

For graduate students who are parents, the Penn State Work/Life Programs Office offers a childcare subsidy. Upon approval, student parents are eligible for subsidies toward full-time childcare and part-time childcare. Student parents may also receive financial assistance for sick and emergency care, summer childcare, and care during finals and mid-term exam periods.

All graduate students are eligible for various student discounts, including tickets for cultural and athletic events, use of recreational facilities and recreational classes, and on-campus parking.

Fellowships and Top-Up Funds

For outstanding applicants, we offer University Graduate Fellowships. These fellowships consist of a stipend over 10 months plus payment of tuition and fees. We utilize University Graduate Fellowships as part of a package of support for academically superior students that includes a graduate assistantship after the fellowship has ended.

We also have "top-up" funds that supplement other financial aid offers to highly recruited applicants. Our goal is to make sure that no outstanding applicant who would like to attend Penn State feels that they must go elsewhere because of financial considerations.

Programs for Minority Scholars

The Office of Graduate Educational Equity in the Graduate School assists in the retention, recruitment, and professional development of underrepresented graduate students. Within the College of Agricultural Sciences, the Assistant to the Dean for Minority Affairs, Dr. Catherine Lyons , is in charge of programs to recruit and retain minority students.

For qualified minority applicants, Penn State provides assistantships through the Bunton-Waller Graduate Awards Program . The program competition is open to incoming graduate degree candidates who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents.

Other Financial Aid

Information on other sources of financial aid for U.S. citizens is available from Penn State's Office of Student Aid . FastWeb maintains a searchable database of scholarships. Applications for federal student aid can be completed on the FAFSA website.

For More Information

For more information on finances and financial aid, please see these websites: