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NPSAS: Executive Summary Student Financing of Graduate and First-Professional Education, 1999-2000
Profile of Graduate and First-Professional Students
Profile of Graduate and First-Professional Students: Master's Degree Students
Profile of Graduate and First-Professional Students: Doctoral Degree Students
Profile of Graduate and First-Professional Students: First-Professional Students
Paying for Graduate and First-Professional Education
Responsibilities of Teaching Assistants
Research Methodology
Full Report (PDF)
Executive Summary (PDF)

Assistantships benefit both students and their institutions. They provide students with a stipend to help cover their expenses and an opportunity to learn skills that help prepare them for their future careers. At the same time, they provide institutions with a source of labor for teaching and research projects. Twenty percent of all graduate and first-professional students and 32 percent of full-time, full-year students received an assistantship in 1999–2000. However, variation existed across degree program levels and fields of study. Doctoral students received assistantships more frequently (47 percent) than did master’s (16 percent) or first-professional (11 percent) students. In addition, at the doctoral level, students in science and in engineering were more likely than students in the humanities/social sciences to have assistantships. At the master’s level, M.A./M.S. students in science were more likely than those in other fields to have assistantships.

Assistantships are a common form of aid for foreign students, who are not eligible for federal grant and loan programs. In 1999–2000, 54 percent of foreign students received an assistantship, compared with 17 percent of U.S. citizens and resident aliens. This high percentage reflects the fact that about 40 percent of foreign students were studying science or engineering as well as their need to have an alternative to federal aid.

The average amount received by full-time, full-year graduate and first-professional students with assistantships was $9,800. Ph.D. students in the sciences who attended full time, full year received an average of $15,000 in assistantships, and those in engineering received an average of $13,500.

Students with assistantships often receive benefits in addition to a stipend. About two-thirds of those with teaching and research assistantships (64 and 67 percent, respectively) received tuition discounts or waivers in conjunction with their assistantship. Various types of insurance are also sometimes provided: 36 percent of teaching assistants and 42 percent of research assistants received insurance (such as health or life) that was at least partially paid for by their institutions.

One way of examining the contribution of assistantships is to compare them to the price of attending and to the amounts borrowed. For full-time, full-year graduate or first-professional students, the average price of attending (including tuition, books and supplies, and living expenses) was about $26,300. The average amount received for assistantships and the average amount borrowed were negatively related. For example, students with assistantships paying less than $5,000 borrowed an average of $7,700, while those with assistantships of $15,000 or more borrowed an average of $2,200.

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