Financial Support

     English Proficiency
     Course Requirements on Responsible Code of Conduct
     Sexual Harassment Education
Assistantship Job Expectations, Performance Review, and Work Load
Teaching Assistantships (TAs)
     Application Process
     Attendance Policies for TAs
     Absence Policies for TAs
Research Assistantships (RAs)
     Attendance Policies for RAs
     Absence Policies
Registration Requirements
     Full-time vs. Part-time Status

The Department commits to provide financial support to full-time PhD students during their first four years in the PhD program, provided appropriate academic progress is maintained, expectations of assistantship are met, and English proficiency requirements for a teaching assistantship are met. This progress is measured by timely completion of qualifying, comprehensive, and final exams, research productivity, grades, and performance of assistantship duties. Beyond the first four years, students should expect to be supported by their PhD advisor as a Research Assistant (RA), or through fellowships or other non-departmental resources. The Department sometimes provides Teaching Assistant (TA) positions for students who are beyond their fourth year, especially in cases where the student received RA support or fellowships during one or more of the first four years of the program. Many MCS students also receive support as a TA.

Several other forms of financial support are available through the Graduate College and the University. These include graduate teaching assistantships, research assistantships, scholarships, Post-Comprehensive Research Awards, Summer Fellowships, Seashore-Ballard Fellowships, and, for exceptional entering students, Iowa Recruitment Fellowships. External fellowships, such as the NSF Graduate Fellowships, are also available and the Graduate College provides funding consultations. Competition for these positions is quite keen.

A student must be formally admitted to the Graduate College before being tendered any form of graduate appointment. Scholars, fellows, and research and teaching assistants must be registered as students in good standing in order to hold such appointments. Appointments will be terminated when student status is terminated.


During the academic year (i.e., fall and spring semesters), students appointed to an assistantship position are usually appointed to a 50% assistantship. Somewhat rarely, a student may be appointed to a 25% assistantship. In the Computer Science Department, 50% assistantship stipends cover the cost of living and schooling for our TAs and RAs. The University publishes reasonable cost estimates, for the College of Liberal Arts, on its web page.

Graduate assistants holding appointments of 25% or greater are assessed tuition at the resident rate. In addition, students holding at least a 25% appointment and enrolled for 9 or more semester hours of coursework will receive a full tuition scholarship. The tuition scholarship is prorated if the student is enrolled for fewer than 9 semester hours. The student will also receive a fee scholarship for 50% of the mandatory student fees assessed in the fall and spring semesters.

English Proficiency

All graduate students whose first language is not English are evaluated for verbal English proficiency upon matriculation into a Computer Science graduate program. The results of the ESPA and ELPT tests determine the kind of teaching that can be assigned – full responsibility, a discussion or lab section, or to grade papers – if a teaching assistantship is applied for.
If an A or B level of certification is not initially achieved, additional English language courses are recommended through the English as a Second Language (ESL) Programs Office. The College of Liberal Arts will pay for you to take the course TAPE:5300-Presentation skills one time only.

For PhD Students, who are guaranteed funding, the Computer Science Department will pay for one additional course only and expects you to have a minimum of a B rating by the end of your second semester.

For MCS students, who are not guaranteed funding, our department does not cover the expense of taking additional TA preparation courses, and you are responsible for these expenses.

Course Requirements on Responsible Code of Conduct

Funding agencies (e.g., NSF and NIH) require that graduate students and post-docs that they fund, receive training on responsible conduct of research. In response the Graduate College has asked departments to develop courses that provide this training.

The Department of Computer Science offers the course CS:5980-Topics in CS III-Computing Research Ethics. to satisfy this requirement. It is expected that all PhD students complete this course within their first two years. In addition, MCS students who work as RAs, must also complete this course as soon as possible after the start of their Research Assistantship.

Sexual Harassment Education

All students holding graduate assistantships for the first time must complete sexual harassment training. Renewal appointments will not be processed for anyone who has not completed the training. The CS Academic Services Coordinator will provide information on this and will assist in registering students for the relevant training.

Returning graduate assistants must take a refresher course in sexual harassment training every three calendar years from the date of the most recent training.

Assistantship Job Expectations, Performance Review, and Work Load

Early in the semester, all RAs and TAs will receive written notification of their assistantship expectations and general guidelines as to the time needed to perform each task within their job description. Feedback from faculty supervisors and teaching evaluations will be used to conduct regular performance reviews. NOTE: Renewal of assistantships is subject to satisfactory performance of assistantship duties, and being in good standing as a student, and satisfying English proficiency requirements.

A quarter-time (25%) assistantship carries a responsibility for an average of 10 hours of work per week; a half-time (50%) assistantship means an average of 20 hours per week. Except in unusual circumstances and when prior approval has been obtained, appointments or combinations of appointments exceeding 50% are not permitted.

Teaching Assistantships

Teaching assistantships are the most common form of financial support, generally given to PhD students in the early years of their studies and some MCS students. Teaching assistantships serve two purposes: assistance in the instructional program of the University and the preparation of future teachers. However, even students not aiming to become teachers greatly benefit from the improved technical communication skills that usually result from a teaching assistantship. Further details regarding teaching assistantships are located within the Teaching Assistant Handbook included with this publication.

Application Process

All graduate students seeking financial support as a TA must formally apply for an award before the specified deadline. Notices describing how to apply for support will be sent to all graduate students in October for the spring semester and in March for the summer session and fall semester.

Attendance Policy for TAs

Start Date for TAs: The first day of the TA appointment is the third business day before classes begin. Unless pre-approved, failure to report by that time may result in loss of appointment or pay deduction.

End Date for TAs: The College views graduate TAs as professionals and expects them to fulfill their professional obligations before leaving. In the case of TAs, the last date of work is the date that final grades are due. The last date of work may be earlier with the permission of the faculty supervisor.

Absence Policies for TAs

TAs must report to their faculty supervisor if they will be absent from class or unable to perform their TA duties due to illness or family emergencies. The faculty supervisor and Director of Graduate Studies or the DEO must pre-approve absences for any other reasons or for absences of more than one week. The faculty supervisor alone cannot approve an absence in those cases. Schedules cannot be substituted or exchanged with other TAs without prior approval by the faculty supervisor and the Director of Graduate Studies or the DEO. TAs are not expected to make up for time missed on an hour-for-hour basis. Rather, they are expected to fulfill their job responsibilities in a timely and professional manner; for example, scheduling an extra class or holding additional office hours if necessary.

Research Assistantships

Research assistantships are awarded by faculty to qualified graduate students to participate in scholarly research. In awarding research assistantships, faculty members often give preference to PhD students and those who demonstrate strong potential for research. RA positions should be sought by contacting individual faculty members; the Department does not award RA positions directly.

Attendance Policy for RAs

Start Date for RAs:  The first day of the RA appointment is the first day of classes.

End Date for RAs:  The College views graduate RAs as professionals and expects them to fulfill their professional obligations before leaving. In the case of RAs, the last date of work is the last day of the semester (i.e., the end of Final Exams Week). The last date of work may be earlier with the permission of the faculty supervisor.

Absence Policies for RAs

All RA absences, except for illnesses or family emergencies, must be pre-approved by the faculty supervisor. The faculty supervisor and the Director of Graduate Studies or the DEO must pre-approve absences for other reasons or for absences of more than a week. RAs are not expected to make up for time missed on an hour-for-hour basis. Rather, they are expected to complete their work assignments in a timely and professional manner.


Specific terms and conditions of employment for graduate assistants are largely governed by the collective bargaining agreement between The University of Iowa and the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America union, Local 896, more commonly known as COGS (Campaign to Organize Graduate Students). The COGS contract may be viewed directly from the COGS website.

Registration Requirements

Full-time students are normally expected to take at least 9 semester hours during the fall and spring semesters An exception would be for MCS students in their final term, who may register for less than 9 semester hours, as well as PhD students who have completed their comprehensive exam.

Occasionally, students holding assistantships and actively involved in research may be permitted to take as few as 6 semester hours. Such students must complete a "short hours" form, signed by their advisor, and filed with the Registrar's Office. Additional constraints apply to international students seeking reduced hours, who must complete both the “short hours” form and an online form offered by the International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS). Approval is typically granted only to post-comp PhD students.

Note that students awarded Graduate College funded fellowships, in the summer, must be registered for a summer session course. At the present time, summer TAs and RAs need not be registered for classes in a summer session if they were registered during the preceding academic year.

Full-time vs. Part-time Status

Students should be aware of consequences when dropping courses result in part-time status. Full-time status for graduate students is 9 semester hours or more; half-time status is 5-8 s.h.

  • Visa status may be affected by anything less than full-time status for international students during the academic year. Forms must be submitted to ISSS at the beginning of each applicable semester. Use the form, Part-Time Authorization for Academic Reason, available on the ISSS website.
  • If a student has been in the U.S. more than five years, they must be at least half time to be exempt from Social Security and Medicare paycheck deductions..
  • Students must be at least half time for purposes of student loan deferment.

If applicable, the Registrar’s “short-hours form” is available from the Academic Services Coordinator, or the Registrar’s Service Center, 17 Calvin Hall.


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