Funding Policy and Sources

Graduate students are funded on year-round 12 month basis. For a historical breakdown of funding sources, see our funding statistics.

Graduate Assistant Positions

Students funded as a Graduate Assistant (GA) may be funded as a Teaching Assistant (TA) and/or Research Assistant (RA). GA positions are classified as 'half' (10hrs/week) or 'full' (20hrs/week).

Teaching Assistants

Teaching Assistants are assigned to support undergraduate courses. Typical TA responsibilities include leading discussion and/or lab sections, grading, holding office hours, and providing classroom support during lectures and/or exams.

Research Assistants

Most students working on their thesis research (and some students working on their second-year project) are appointed as Research Assistants and funded by their professorial advisor or a co-advisor who is typically a researcher in the department or at a nearby facility (ie, NASA GSFC).


The Teaching and Research Assistant salary scales are set annually by the department. This occurs during the budget process (typically during April/May) and goes into effect July 1. There are 2 steps in the scale:

  1. Pre-candidacy students (this includes students from year 1 until they pass their thesis proposal defense).
  2. Students in candidacy.


Students funded by a fellowship receive payments through their student account or directly from the fellowship. It is sometimes possible to combine a fellowship with a half or full time GA position.

NOTE: International students on fellowships are handled differently. The payroll office may be consulted for details.

Note on other employment: As GA appointments are made on a part-time basis, students cannot be prohibited by the department from obtaining employment external to the university in addition to their GA position. Students who are on an international student visa or who receive funding from a fellowship, employer, or other non-department source should review the policies applicable to those funding sources. In some of these cases, holding additional employment may not be permitted. Students should also consider their course and research commitments when contemplating an additional paid position.


Tuition - The department ensures that all tuition for required courses is covered for students. Tuition coverage may come through tuition remission, graduate school tuition benefits (for certain fellowships), or other employer related benefits. Students are responsible for student fees which are charged on a semester basis.

Health Insurance - All graduate students are required, by university policy, to have health insurance coverage. Students have the following options to demonstrate compliance with this requirement:

  1. University employee health insurance: Students with a half or full GA position are eligible to enroll in the university's employee health insurance plans. There are multiple comprehensive plans to choose from, all of which are heavily subsidized by the State of Maryland.
  2. Student Health Insurance Plan ('SHIP'): The SHIP is available to all Graduate Students regardless of enrollment or employment status. Students may purchase SHIP on a semester/term or annual basis.
    1. Many fellowships will include funding for this insurance plan.
  3. Alternate Insurance: Students may choose to provide proof of health insurance through an external plan. These plans are usually from a parent/guardian, other employer, or through a state health exchange.
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Academic Deadlines

Links to important academic dates and deadlines can be found below.

Note that you must be on payroll early in the semester to be eligible for tuition remission. The University will run a check late in the semester to determine that you are still on payroll. If you are not, the tuition remission will be canceled and you will be billed. These provisions largely affect either students enrolling for their first semester or students finishing their degree work. Also, you must register for classes prior to the first day of classes to avoid a late fee.

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Graduate Timeline and Ph.D. Completion

The Graduate School has information on the various stages of a graduate career:

A detailed overview of the Astronomy Graduate program stages can be found in the Graduate Program Handbook.

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