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Graduate Guide --> IV. Financial Assistance and Costs --> Financial Assistance


Financial assistance to graduate students is an integral part of the atmospheric science program, with 60 to 70 research and teaching assistants normally supported by faculty research programs and the Department on instructional duties. One quarter to one third of these appointments usually become available annually to new students.

  1. Graduate Research Assistantships

    Graduate research assistantships normally are awarded to qualified students for the nine month academic year commencing with the fall semester but a few appointments may be awarded later in the year due to attrition or the initiation of new research projects. Applications for financial support are considered separately, after the student's eligibility for admission is determined. Invariably, more requests are received for financial assistance than can be supported so the selection of graduate research assistants is quite competitive. The award decisions are generally made during the spring semester, to begin the following fall, when the availability of research funds for the next academic year has become fairly well established and sufficient applications have been received to select students on a relative merit basis.

    The M.S. program is designed so that a student can complete the course and thesis requirements in 24-30 months. M.S. candidates generally receive GRA support for this entire period, subject to availability of funds. Students must maintain a cumulative GPA at CSU of 3.0 or better to receive a GRA.

    Students on a half time graduate research assistantship are expected to work a minimum of 20 hours per week on their research. However, graduate research assistants should not conclude that their research obligations may be satisfied by working a certain number of hours per week, nor that they are being paid to work a fixed number of hours and no further effort is necessary. They are working toward a degree; and by virtue of the availability of faculty generated research projects which provide for reimbursed student participation, they are being afforded an opportunity for financial support while acquiring a graduate education. The more rapidly they advance in their work, the sooner they will obtain their degrees and be in a position to seek gainful employment.

    Assistantships are effective from either the 1st or 16th of the month for which they are awarded depending upon the date the student reports for work in accordance with instructions received from the principal investigator. These positions are not automatically renewed from one year to the next but are dependent upon the availability of funds, satisfaction of the principal investigator with the student's research performance, and the maintenance of academic eligibility by the student. The Department requires 30 days notice from the student in the case of a contractual cancellation, this in turn being the Department's responsibility should student funding become unavailable. If students should fail to fulfill their research commitments, the assistantship may be terminated, again with 30 days notice. Graduate research assistants are required to register for at least one research credit each semester and must be assigned a grade by the responsible principal investigator who measures the student's research performance. Any grade of "U" (or letter grade lower than "B") in either ATS 699 or ATS 799 for two successive semesters will result in loss of the assistantship regardless of academic standing or other considerations.

    Graduate research assistant pay scales vary according to a student's level (M.S. or Ph.D.) and a student's advancement (Step) within that level. Upon recommendation of the advisor, M.S. students may reach Step 2 after successful completion of one year of graduate work. Advancement of a Ph.D. candidate from Step 1 to Step 2 is dependent upon the principal investigator's satisfaction with the student's research progress, and the student passing the Ph.D. preliminary examination.

    In general, graduate research assistants are paid on a half time basis during the academic year and on a three-quarter-time basis during the summer months, depending on the availability of funds and mutual agreement between the advisor and the research assistant. Thus an M.S. Step 1 student typically receives $30,124.71 during a 12 month period, while a Ph.D. Step 2 student receives $33,471.83. In addition to paid holidays, up to two weeks of leave per year may be provided. Stipends received by graduate research assistants are subject to income taxes.

    Graduate research assistants from states other than Colorado can generally qualify for Colorado residency after one year as can non-citizens who are permanent residents of the United States (with green card). All eligible students are expected to attain Colorado residency by the beginning of their second year of graduate study.

    Graduate Research Assistantship Stipends*
    (Academic Year 2016-2017)

    Monthly Rate
    Sept - April May - July
    50% Time 75% Time
    MS I 2,231.46 3,347.19
    MS II 2,283.17 3,424.75
    PhD I 2,339.94 3,509.91
    PhD II 2,479.39 3,719.09

    *See Tuition and Fees, Section IV B. Twelve month stipend assumes three-quarter time GRA during summer, half time GRA during academic year. Rates above apply to students entering the program after 8/01/16.

    During periods between semesters or when the University administrative offices may be closed and classes are not in session, graduate assistants usually concentrate on their research work. To the extent that the advisor and Department Head concur, graduate research assistants may use such periods for leave without pay from campus. Alternatively, to the extent that they fulfill their research commitments to the principal investigator's satisfaction by prior overtime work, graduate students may be authorized compensatory time off during such periods.

    The "Statement of Leave Policy for Graduate Research Assistants" follows:

    Graduate Research Assistants are entitled to specific paid holidays as specified in the University General Catalog calendar. Normally, these holidays include:

    • Independence Day (1)
    • Labor Day (1)
    • Thanksgiving (2)
    • Christmas (3)
    • New Year's Day (1)
    • Martin Luther King's Birthday (1)
    • Memorial Day (1)

    There are no paid vacation days, in addition to those above, for GRA's. Any additional time off or absence from your location of employment must have the explicit permission from the student's advisor. In all cases, this leave beyond the official holidays, would be classified as "comp time" and would be made up either prior to or following the leave.

    As part time employees of the University, graduate research assistants are not entitled to all of the fringe benefits extended to full time staff members such as paid annual or sick leave, holidays, etc. However, they are covered by the University's travel and liability insurance policies, and are covered by worker's compensation.

    Pursuant to State Statute, CRS 24-19-104, all graduate assistants are "employees at will" and their employment is subject to such pre-termination due process as may be required under the circumstances of each case. The Provost/Academic Vice President must review and approve any recommendations concerning the termination of graduate assistants on any grounds, except for termination at the end of the stated employment period. The provisions of this section shall not be interpreted to authorize the termination of any graduate assistant for any reason that is contrary to applicable federal, state or local law.

  2. Graduate Teaching Assistantships

    A limited number of graduate teaching assistantships supported by funds provided to the Department will generally be available to qualified students each semester for the nine month academic year. These positions provide students with an opportunity to acquire teaching experience as a classroom assistant to the faculty instructor. Some classes may require that students develop and present lectures, laboratories, and discussion materials. Courses to which graduate teaching assistants may expect to be assigned include ATS 150, ATS 350, ATS 351, ATS 555, ATS 560, ATS 601, ATS 602, ATS 605, ATS 606, ATS 620, ATS 621, ATS 622, ATS 640, ATS 641, ATS 650, ATS 652 and ATS 655.

    Graduate teaching assistantships normally are rotated among atmospheric science graduate students on a semester basis in order that a greater number may share in this opportunity to gain instructional experience. Inasmuch as most students are also graduate research assistants with research obligations to meet, departmental teaching assistantships are provided by increasing the GRA stipend by 1/8th time.

    Graduate teaching assistants who are GRAs are required to register for at least one credit in Supervised College Teaching, ATS 784, during the semester in which so appointed.

  3. Fellowships

    Students are encouraged to secure fellowships. Additionally, a number of government agencies and private industries offer long range training programs in which employees receive full pay while pursuing an advanced degree at a university of their choice.

    Each year, the federal government, through various agencies, (e.g. National Science Foundation) sponsors several hundred merit graduate fellowships in the physical sciences which are awarded to U.S. applicants. Applications must be submitted by early November for the following academic year. Awards are made during spring for a maximum of three years. Application forms may be obtained from nearly any U.S. university or by writing to NSF (The Fellowship Office, National Research Council, 2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20418).

    Foreign students can sometimes obtain fellowships from their respective governments or from a sponsoring agency such as AID (Agency for International Development) or the African American Institute (AFGRAD).

    The American Meteorological Society also provides a number of graduate fellowships. Students are encouraged to contact the AMS to learn about these opportunities.

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