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Assistantships

There are several possible sources of funding with or near the university for qualified graduate students. Well over half of CS graduate students are typically funded through departmental fellowships, teaching, or research assistantships. Others were supported elsewhere within the University, or at the nearby Corporate Research Center. The vast majority of students seeking support will find it in one of the following ways

Graduate Teaching Assistantship (GTA): 
The number of GTAs awarded in a given year is difficult to predict and is driven by undergraduate (not graduate) enrollments. A fraction of the GTAs (approximately one-third) are offered to new students. In 2019/20, stipends were about $2,000-2,200/month for nine months. Students on assistantships are exempt from tuition and a significant fraction of the costs for a University sponsored healthcare plan are covered. Note that cost of living in Blacksburg area is low compared to most major metropolitain areas in the United States.

GTA applications are accepted twice a year, in November for spring semester and in March for the following academic year. Students entering the program in fall are given an opportunity to request a GTA at the departmental orientation meeting. Be aware, however, that the department will have already screened the incoming students and awarded a pool of assistantships at the time admission offers were made. Thus, incoming students for that semester not given an assistantship from this pool generally have lower priority over continuing students for the few remaining positions.

Continuing students must have a minimum GPA of B (3.0) to be eligible for a GTA position. Decisions regarding the award of GTA positions are made by the ADH and the Graduate Program Committee. Funding decisions are largely guided by a ranking formula. Students who do not receive initial awards are placed on a waiting list and will be informed of their quartile standing on that list. The list is re-ordered at the end of the semester when new grades and GTA evaluations become available.

Graduate Research Assistantship (GRA): 
Many faculty have active research programs that include funds for research assistants. Note that GRAs are most commonly awarded to students who have been in the Department for at least one semester. GRAs receive the same stipends, tuition exemption, and healthcare benefits as GTAs. Typically, GRA funding comes from grant support awarded to individual faculty members or research centers. For more information, see the various individual faculty and research center pages at this website.

Can grad students afford to live in Blacksburg on a grad assistantship? What might typical take-home pay look like for a graduate assistant after applicable deductions? What are housing costs like?

[Please note that the following was written in Spring 2021.]
One major factor affecting the typical stipend take-home pay is whether you choose to have the comprehensive fees that students pay (those not covered by the assistantship) deducted from your paycheck. Also, while the University pays most of the health insurance premium, there is a portion that the student pays, which can also be deducted from the paycheck. If you do choose both of these automatic deductions (most students do), then the actual take-home pay, after all taxes and deductions, would typically be about $700 per pay period or about $1,400 per month.

A major factor for any grad student at any school will be the cost of housing. For those attending the Blacksburg campus, you can find some typical housing costs.

The CS Grad Council has provided some resources to new students on housing information on their website. For those attending the National Capital Region campus, you can find information on housing options here

Some additional reference material on assistantship compensation, deductions, and insurance is provided below: