Graduate assistantship stipends to increase 3 percent in fall 2016

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – A 3 percent increase in stipends for graduate assistants at Penn State, beginning with fall 2016 appointments, was announced today (May 26) by University President Eric J. Barron and Executive Vice President and Provost Nicholas P. Jones, pending approval of the University’s 2016-17 operating budget by the Penn State Board of Trustees in July.

“The University is committed to supporting our graduate students, who are vital to Penn State’s mission of teaching, research and service,” Jones said. “We consider it a priority that we continue to make progress in providing our graduate students with support packages that afford a living stipend, allowing our students to focus on their research, creative scholarship, and professional development while in their degree programs to best assure they complete their degrees in a timely manner.”

Graduate assistantships at Penn State include a stipend, full tuition and fee waivers, and subsidized, high-quality health insurance (see Graduate Assistant Fact Sheet). Graduate assistantships at Penn State are primarily half-time, fall/spring appointments that involve 36 weeks of, on average, 20 hours of activities per week, with many students receiving additional summer support. The majority of graduate assistantships at Penn State are funded through research grants and contracts. The funding supports students in conducting research that is part of their degree requirements, with the remainder funding graduate teaching assistants who support undergraduate instruction, both in the classroom and in research opportunities.

Based upon the average 2015-16 stipend amount of approximately $20,000 across the University for half-time, 36-week fall/spring graduate assistantship appointments, the 3 percent increase would translate to $600.

Along with its commitment to maintaining competitive support packages for its graduate students, Regina Vasilatos-Younken, vice provost for graduate education and dean of the Graduate School, noted that the University continues to strive to manage costs for its students wherever possible.

“While national trends in health insurance premium rates continue to increase — the average for 2016 was 8 percent and the health insurance industry predicts that premium increases on marketplace exchanges will trend even higher in 2017 than in previous years — the University was able to negotiate a new rate for its student health insurance plan that represents a 7.9 percent increase over 2015-16 rates from Aetna Student Health, the insurer that currently underwrites Penn State’s Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP),” Vasilatos-Younken noted in a recent memo to graduate assistants.

“We understand this still represents an increase, and the University will be seeking to mitigate further increases to the extent possible in the coming year, including through a competitive bid process,” Vasilatos-Younken wrote.

For a graduate assistant with individual coverage, the total increase above 2015-16 premium rates paid by the student equates to approximately $48 for annual coverage. For a graduate assistant with family coverage (student plus spouse/domestic partner and two or more children), the total increase paid by the student equates to $222 for annual coverage.

  Costs Covered by PSU Costs Covered by Student
Individual Coverage $2,636.80 $659.20
Family Coverage
(Student, Spouse/Domestic Partner, and Two or More Children)
$10,151.80 $3,032.30

The new 2016-17 premium rates, including the University contribution to the premium for graduate assistants and their dependents, and payroll deductions for graduate assistants, will be available on the University Health Services website in the near future.

For questions related to Penn State’s student health insurance plan, contact Student Health Insurance office at uhs-insurance@psu.edu or call 814-865-7467. Also, feel free to review graduate student health insurance FAQs.

For other questions related to graduate assistantships and stipends, contact L-GRAD-DEANS-OFFICE@lists.psu.edu

Last Updated May 26, 2016