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Graduate Program Director Guide

Financial Aid

Graduate Financial Aid (GFA)
GFA is the university's internal financial aid for graduate students. It receives funding from the University's operating budget and distributed by the Office of the Provost through the Office of Graduate Studies to the academic units. Generally speaking, the money for GFA comes from 29% of the revenues generated from graduate enrollments at the university, excluding enrollments in Instructional Revenue Centers (IRCs). This means increases in revenue from graduate course credits (i.e., graduate students who pay part or all the cost of their tuition) will yield more GFA funds for the next admissions cycle.

The algorithm for GFA fund allocation to the different academic units is somewhat complicated. A description and a chart are provided at the end of this section. Once the funds are distributed to the academic units, the amount of funds each teaching unit will receive is decided within the academic unit.

The Kogod School of Business and the Washington College of Law do not receive GFA funding from the Office of the Provost, which means they use their own revenues to recruit graduate students. They do not receive GFA money from the university and their revenue is not used to fund GFA allotted to the other academic units (CAS, SIS, SOC, and SPA).

For more information on AU's Graduate Financial Aid Policy, visit

Individual award packages
Award packages consist of graduate tuition remission (either a partial or complete reduction in tuition) and/or stipend (money for work hours). GFA packages vary and are not uniform for all students. A full package consists of 18 credits of tuition remission and a 20-hour per week work assignment with stipend. The work assignment may be either a teaching assistantship (TA) or a research assistantship (RA), or a combination of both. Stipend pay rates are different for doctoral students and master's students.  

Most doctoral students who receive GFA funding are awarded full packages. This doesn't mean that doctoral students cannot be admitted without full or partial funding. Many master's students receive partial packages, meaning less than full package offers for tuition remission and/or stipends. It is not uncommon master's students to received tuition-only or stipend-only GFA awards.

Academic units have the flexibility, depending on admissions patterns during an admissions cycle, to reclassify GFA designated for doctoral programs to masters programs and vice versa. Similarly, an academic or teaching unit can choose to convert funds designated for tuition remission to stipends and vice versa. These transfers need to be approved by the Office of Graduate Studies. In each admissions cycle, some financial aid is recovered from the PhD packages because students are taking 899 courses, freeing funds to support other doctoral or master's students.

GFA eligibility and responsibilities
Eligible graduate students are those students with full-time status during the fall, spring and/or summer semesters or half-time status during the fall, spring and/or summer semesters. Half-time students may receive GFA in the form of (a) tuition remission only or (b) stipend only for work performed at an hourly rate equal to what is paid to graduate students at their graduate degree level (i.e., at the master's or doctoral level) on an assistantship. Awards may be made to new students or returning students. They do not have to have previously received support from GFA.

Students must maintain satisfactory progress towards their degree, i.e. students are completing no less than 2/3 of the courses for which they have registered, maintaining a cumulative GPA of 3.0, passing comprehensive exams, as well as completing thesis/dissertations requirements or other program requirements in a timely manner. If the offer letter states so, students may be terminated for failure to perform adequately assigned work for their stipends. An evaluation of assigned work is recommended once per semester.

Awards for PhD students are renewable up to four years provided that satisfactory academic progress is maintained and funds are available.   

All units receiving GFA allocations from the Office of the Provost are required to submit reports of GFA awards offered, accepted and spent at designated times during the academic year to the Office of Graduate Studies (OGS). These distribution reports are required four times per year, in July, October, February and a final report on or before April 30th of each year. The final report includes the Recipient Eligibility Forms (REFs), which provides information on how many students did not meet eligibility criteria for GFA funding and a summary of actions taken by units for students who no longer meet eligibility criteria.

Other Types of Graduate Funding  

Internal funds
For doctoral students, the Doctoral Research Award is awarded each academic year to support approved dissertation research. This is a competitive award. Eligible applicants must be admitted to doctoral candidacy before the grant period begins May 1st each year, and have an approved dissertation proposal. The awards may be for up to $5000.00 and the funding period is May 1st to April 30th (one academic year). OGS announces the award at the end of each calendar year with application deadline in March. Award recipients are announced in late March. For additional details, please visit

For master's students, the Hart A. Massey Fellowship is awarded each academic year to one or more incoming Canadian students pursuing graduate studies full-time at American University. The fellowship is applied to tuition charges. It is renewable for one year to students who show satisfactory progress towards their graduate degree.  This is a competitive award and applicants must meet minimum University graduate admissions requirements to be considered. OGS announces the award each February. Selections and offer letters are sent in March. In case no application or no worthy applicants are received from a citizen of the Dominion of Canada, American University shall award the fellowship(s) to any applicant deemed worthy. For more details, please visit

The United Methodist Graduate Scholarship is awarded each academic year to master's students enrolled at American University who are full members of the United Methodist Church (UMC). The scholarship is applied to tuition charges. OGS announces the award each February. Selections and offer letters are sent in March. U.S. citizenship or permanent resident status is not required to apply for this scholarship. International students from one of the UMC Central Conferences must be a member of the UMC for a minimum of three years. International students from an autonomous Methodist Church (or non-UMC Central Conference) must have been a member of the UMC within the U.S. for at least three years. For more information, please visit

External Grants and Scholarships
There are many funding opportunities from various agencies and organizations. OGS keeps a list of these opportunities at addition, the Office of Merit Awards keeps lists of additional opportunities. Their website is

Student Loans
Graduate students who are at least half-time (defined as registration for five semester credit hours during both the fall and spring semesters, or by enrollment for two semester credit hours during the summer semester) are eligible for federal student loans. Many students use these types of loans, such as federal student aid, to not only pay educational expenses but also living expenses. Students who have GFA funds but need additional funds to supplement their income are eligible for student loans. Washington DC is expensive and often students will want more money than is provided by GFA funds. However, GFA funding is limited and students should be made aware of their options to take loans.

Campus jobs
There are many part time jobs and student assistant positions available around campus. Students can tutor, work in the library, work in campus offices, etc. However, the OGS strongly discourages additional campus work hours for students with full stipends (20 hours per week). There are multiple reasons for this guideline, but one primary goal is to give graduate students who do not have full support an opportunity to make money to help defray the cost of their graduate education. Furthermore, a student cannot work 28 or more hours per week, as they would be entitled to fringe benefits from the university. GFA has no budget for student benefits. Additionally, students receiving GFA funding do not receive benefits, such as health insurance. 

Full-time employment at American University
Some graduate students will accept jobs as full-time AU employees. After four months of employment, they are eligible for educational benefits, which can support part time study in a graduate program. For more information, see

Allocation of GFA to the Academic Units

Allocation and distribution of these funds happens through specific steps that reflect institutional priorities for graduate education. First, funds are allotted for AU's doctoral programs. This comes out as full packages (18 credits and 20 hours per week stipend) for a set number of awardees for each program. Second, funds are set aside for specialized programs and/or awards, such as the doctoral research award. Third, the Office of Graduate Studies keeps a small amount to offset accounting differences between projected versus actual graduate enrollments. Any funds remaining from the offset is distributed back to the academic units after such adjustments are made. The remaining funds are then available for master's students. The Provost and the deans develop a formula to determine how much each academic unit gets to recruit master's students. See the example below demonstrating how funds were distributed in 2013. Funds are given to the academic units as full packages (18 credits and 20 hours per week stipend), but the academic units have the flexibility to award full packages and partial packages, including tuition remission-only and/or stipend-only awards.

Graduate Financial Aid Distribution Process