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Assistantship Hiring and Contract Guidelines

Allocation Determination
Hiring & Contracts
CGS Resolution on Graduate Scholars, Fellows, Trainees, and Assistants

Laura Ryman
Director, Student Support
Phone Extension 87065
MSC 6702

The following procedures are required to process assistantship contracts for the academic year.

Assistantship policies evolve and the current form is required. If you have old contract forms, please recycle them and use the revised form. The current form is available from the Graduate Forms link on our web site at Submit the contract (including the SWEC position description), along with any tax forms, direct deposit and I-9 forms (required for new hires), to MSC 6702. GA’s should not begin working until their contracts have been processed. DO NOT BEGIN GA’s WORKING UNTIL THEIR CONTRACT IS APPROVED. THIS MEANS GETTING THE CONTRACTS IN EARLY SO WE CAN WORK OUT ANY PROBLEMS PRIOR TO THE STUDENT BEGINNING WORK.

Allocation Determination
The deans, vice-presidents, or president determine assistantship allocations for the upcoming academic year. When allocations are established, the assistantship paperwork may be completed.

Council of Graduate Schools Resolution Regarding Graduate Scholars, Fellows, Trainees, and Assistants:

Acceptance of an offer of financial support *(such as a graduate scholarship, fellowship, traineeship, or assistantship) for the next academic year by a prospective or enrolled graduate student completes an agreement that both student and graduate school expect to honor. In that context, the conditions affecting such offers and their acceptance must be defined carefully and understood by all parties.

Students are under no obligation to respond to offers of financial support prior to April 15; earlier deadlines for acceptance of such offers violate the intent of this Resolution. In those instances in which a student accepts an offer before April 15, and subsequently desires to withdraw that acceptance, the student may submit in writing a resignation of the appointment at any time through April 15. However, an acceptance given or left in force after April 15 commits the student not to accept another offer without first obtaining a written release from the institution to which a commitment has been made. Similarly, an offer by an institution after April 15 is conditional on presentation by the student of the written release from any previously accepted offer. It is further agreed by the institutions and organizations subscribing to the above Resolution that a copy of this Resolution or a link to the URL should accompany every scholarship, fellowship, traineeship, and assistantship offer.

Selecting New Students
Interview and choose assistants from your graduate program or your applicant pool on JobLink. When the selection process is completed, submit the following to TGS at MSC 6702:

  • The GA Contract form is available online. The form is a pdf fillable form. After completing the information in the contract, save the contract to your computer with the appropriate name of the student.
  • All tax forms, direct deposit information and the SWEC Position Description form are available on the Web. An I-9 form should also be filled out.

Submit rehire contracts for the upcoming academic year by April 24 or earlier. Write "rehire" on the top of contract.

Contract Dates
In order to match payroll deadlines and dates, contracts must use the following dates:

  • Full academic year contracts: Begin August 10 or 25-end April 24 or May 9
  • Fall contracts: Begin August 10 or 25-end December 9 or 24
  • Spring contracts: Begin December 25 or January 9 -end April 24 or May 9 

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Assistant's Initial Stipend Payment

GA’s should receive their first payment approximately two weeks after their contract start date, if all contract information is received 30 days prior to the contract start date. GA’s should not begin working until their contracts have been processed. DO NOT BEGIN GA’s WORKING UNTIL THEIR CONTRACT IS APPROVED. THIS MEANS GETTING THE CONTRACTS IN EARLY SO WE CAN WORK OUT ANY PROBLEMS PRIOR TO THE STUDENT BEGINNING WORK.

Current stipend amounts are $7530 per academic year for most assistants; Teaching and Athletic Assistants are currently paid $8837 per academic year.  Doctoral Assistants are paid at a higher rate. All types of assistantships pay federal and state taxes but do not pay FICA taxes. The assistantship departments pay all stipends. GA’s are set up in Payroll and are paid automatically according to their contract dates.

Except for rare instances (and doctoral contracts), 9 credit hours of graduate level course hours per semester will be paid. Assistantship tuition payments are limited to 9 graduate credit hours each Fall or Spring semester, although contracts are usually written for an academic year (18 credit hours total). This division coincides with standard procedures for awarding financial aid.

Students must pay for any additional credit hours each semester at the tuition rate based on residency status. Under no circumstances will payment from assistantship funds be used for audited coursework or for undergraduate hours. Tuition will be covered at the on-campus rate according to the terms of the contract. Charges for web-based courses that exceed the tuition costs included in the terms of the contract will be the responsibility of the student.

Tuition Payment and In-State/Out-Of-State Indicators
On the contract please circle one of the tuition classifications:

  • A- an in state student,
  • B- an out of state student whose contract covers out of state rates,
  • C- an out of state whose contract covers only in state rates and student is responsible for paying the remaining tuition costs, or
  • D- an out of state student whose contract covers only the in state rates, but the hiring department is responsible for paying the remaining tuition costs.

If you have questions about which account tuition is paid from, please call the assistantship director.

Credit Hour Requirement and Underloads
Each semester, GA’s must register for 9 graduate credit hours during the regular registration period and prior to the tuition refund date as outlined in the Schedule of Classes. Underload approval is required if GA’s are not registered for 9 graduate credit hours each semester. Underloads are approved for no less than 6 graduate credits. Underloads are not routinely approved. However, if students are in the first or last semester of their program, or there are extenuating circumstances, approval may be requested with appropriate justification and signature of the academic advisor, department head, and TGS Assistantship Director. Only one underload approval may be granted during the GA's program of study.
Forms are available from TGS and on the web. Underload forms must be completed and approved by the census date of each Fall or Spring semester.

Other JMU Employment
Graduate students may hold JMU employment in addition to their 20 assistantship hours provided the decision is endorsed by the student's program coordinator or core faculty and approved by the TGS Director of Student Support. This decision should be carefully made taking into account the overall effect on the student's academic performance. An e-mail endorsing the employment must come from the coordinator or core faculty to the Assistantship Director for final approval and notification of payroll.

With the passing of the Affordable Care Act, students and part-time employees of the university may work no more than 29 hours per week in any given week during the year. This restriction applies during breaks, holidays, and summer semesters as well. Students cannot be paid for work until it is approved. For this reason, it is imperative that any additional employment at JMU be approved prior to work completion, that total hours worked in any given week total 29 hours or less, and that the number of expected work hours per week be appropriately noted on hiring paperwork. 


Further Information
The use of graduate assistants in teaching is governed by SACSCOC (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools) guidelines. TA's must have earned at least 18 graduate credit hours in their teaching discipline before qualifying to teach, must be evaluated and must be under the direct supervision of a faculty member.

Students may receive an assistantship for a maximum of four semesters (Fall and Spring) or two academic years, except for DOC, MFA and EdS students.

SACSCOC requires the evaluation of all GA’s.

Assistantships that cover out-of-state tuition are currently funded at approximately 37% of the total assistantship allocation. Departments may select a non-Virginia resident for an "in-state" position, but the student or the hiring area will be responsible for paying the difference between in- and out-of-state tuition rates.

The printed assistantship contract provides authorization to the appropriate signing authority. Signing the assistantship contract authorizes the expenditure and certifies that funds are available in accordance with Section 33 of the JMU Financial Procedures Manual. Each assistantship area is responsible for ensuring that funds are available to pay each student's tuition scholarship and stipend at the appropriate rate. Caution: funds from a tuition organization/account may only be used to pay graduate tuition and may not be used for any other purpose.

The Assistant Vice President of Finance will oversee establishing appropriate budget codes, one for in-state tuition and one for out-of-state tuition (ex. Academic Affairs = 100273 and 100355) to facilitate the selection process. Each division will be responsible for individually tracking funds between departments or programs. Only grant-funded assistantships will be budget-org specific to the particular hiring area.

Assistantship areas are encouraged to forward all assistantship contract materials to TGS as soon as graduate assistants are selected, but no later than 30 days prior to the contract start date. Failure to submit contracts 30 days prior will result in delayed financial aid or a revised award package as well as delays, including late stipend payment, tuition payments and loan disbursement.

Completed and signed I-9 forms are required to be in SWEC no later than 2 days after the first workday of the contract. Failure to submit the I-9 form in a timely manner will result in the student's assistantship being terminated. The student will not be paid for time contributed and the student will not be eligible for contract renewal. In no instance will the student be allowed to continue past the due date for the I-9 form. Violation of this time requirement may subject the university to criminal penalties.

Assistantships not filled by the beginning of classes each semester are subject to reassignment to another area or, in budget shortfall situations, may not be filled for the academic year.