Stephen F. Austin State University’s Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships is committed to helping graduate students meet their financial needs. SFA provides graduate students traditional financial assistance in the form of grants, work-study and student loans. SFA participates in state and federal aid programs. To be considered for these funds, an applicant must complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid online at studentaid.gov. For priority consideration, applications should be received by the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships by Jan. 15 each year; however, applications received after this date will be accepted and processed. Once this information is received, students will be evaluated for all available aid programs. Students must meet all eligibility requirements, including satisfactory academic progress, to receive financial assistance. Assistance is available to part-time as well as full-time students. Graduate students must be enrolled in at least six credit hours to qualify for all aid programs. For specific student requirements and information regarding the application process, visit sfasu.edu/faid.
Students are alphabetically assigned a specific counselor who will help with the application process and answer questions. Students can communicate with their financial aid counselor via phone, email or in-person appointments.
Graduate students are eligible for grant funding through state and institutional programs and also benefit from elevated federal loan eligibility.
Enrollment and Attendance Policy
Eligibility for federal student aid is, in part, based on your enrollment status for the term in which you are enrolled. For financial aid purposes, full-time enrollment is nine hours per semester for graduate students. Adjustments to your cost of attendance are made twice each semester. Your aid will be adjusted if your enrollment changes any time before the census date of each term.
Federal regulations require that students attend all classes in order to receive federal financial aid funds. Attendance will be checked beginning the first class day of each term through the census date. Students will be administratively dropped by the Office of the Registrar from any course where attendance cannot be demonstrated. Based upon this information, your financial aid will be re-evaluated each term, and you will receive funding for only those courses you attend.
Dropping courses also may result in a reduction of financial aid funds. In addition to a reduction in aid, dropping courses also can affect the student’s ability to make satisfactory academic progress. For information concerning Policy 6.16, Satisfactory Academic Progress for Financial Aid Recipients, visit our Satisfactory Academic Progress Policy page.
Students who withdraw from the university or receive all QFs or any combination of QFs and Ws will be subject to a return of federal aid for the semester in which aid was received. (Please see the Return of Funds section below.)
Return of Funds
Federal regulations require SFA to perform a Return of Title IV Funds calculation when a financial aid recipient withdraws, is expelled or otherwise ceases to be a student. When a student has received financial aid payments to cover educational costs for a semester and subsequently withdraws from the university during the semester for which payments were received, these funds can no longer be considered as being used for educational purposes. The return calculation is based on a per diem basis with a formula established by federal regulations. Therefore, all or a portion of the funds may have to be repaid to the aid programs from which they were received. The student will be responsible for reimbursing the university for any funds returned by the university on behalf of the student. Students will be notified of any amount owed by mail, and balances must be paid in the Student Business Services office. Funds returned to the federal loan program will reduce the student’s loan balance with the lender. In the event that nonfederal financial assistance programs or privately funded scholarships have their own return policy, their policy supersedes this policy.
Additionally, SFA is required to perform this return calculation for students who unofficially withdraw or stop attending and receive grades of all QFs, or any combination of Ws and QFs, for the semester. Per regulations, these students will receive a calculation using a 50% completion rate or a percentage based on the last documented date of attendance. It is the responsibility of the student to provide the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships with documentation of continued attendance if the student receives all QFs, or any combination of Ws and QFs, for the semester. Documentation must be provided within 30 calendar days of grades being posted.
Federal aid recipients must be continuously enrolled for at least 60% of the term for which aid is disbursed in order to retain all of the disbursed financial aid in each term. After the 60% point, students are considered to have earned 100% of their federal funds for the term, and no adjustments in federal aid are required.
A number of departments offer graduate assistantships to carefully selected students. The stipends vary according to the office in which employment is offered and the extent of the assignment. To be eligible for an assistantship, a student must have clear admission to the Office of Research and Graduate Studies and be in good academic standing.
There are four types of graduate assistantships:
Teaching Assistantship - A graduate teaching assistant works with students in a specific course or laboratory to provide support for the faculty member in charge, and, in some cases, to teach the course as the primary instructor, under the guidance of a faculty member.
Research Assistantship - A graduate research assistant is normally employed by the principal investigator of a funded research project or may be employed by a department in the pursuit of its broader research mission. The GRA will be assigned a range of duties, such as library searches, fieldwork, laboratory experiments and preparation of reports. Work on a research project often leads to a thesis or dissertation or a professional presentation or publication, and provides long-range direction for the student’s development as a scholar.
Administrative Assistantship - A graduate administrative assistant works with the administrative staff of a department, college or campus office primarily in gathering, organizing and analyzing information.
Graduate Teaching Fellow - A graduate teaching fellow provides instruction to students in a specific course or laboratory with mentorship from a faculty member. The fellow is an advanced graduate student who has completed a minimum of 18 graduate semester credit hours in the subject area and has at least one semester experience as a teaching assistant. The graduate teaching fellow will have completed their work as a teaching assistant with good student evaluation ratings.
Graduate assistants assigned to the 50% rate are required to serve 20 clock hours per week in the department to which they are assigned. Those assigned to other percentages are required to work a proportionate number of clock hours per week. To aid the completion of degree requirements at the earliest practical date, department chairs are not encouraged to offer graduate assistants additional responsibilities beyond the 20-hour norm.
A graduate assistant must be enrolled for at least six hours of graduate coursework in the fall or spring semesters and three semester hours during the summer. Should a graduate assistant fall below the required semester hour minimum, they may not be eligible for an assistantship the following semester.
A graduate assistant who receives veteran’s benefits, scholarships or other resources, especially from the federal government, may be required to take nine hours in order to receive the additional benefits. A student eligible for additional benefits should consult the source of the additional funding to determine the number of hours in which the student must be enrolled to receive the benefits.
Except for the PhD, EdD and MFA programs, graduate assistantships are usually limited to four semesters.
A student interested in a graduate assistantship should contact the appropriate academic department well in advance of the semester in which the student is interested in the assistantship. Also, the student should apply for graduate admission by the first of March for the subsequent fall semester or by the middle of October for the subsequent spring semester.
If the student accepts, they will then contact Human Resources to set up an appointment for new employee orientation and complete the appropriate paperwork.
A graduate assistant orientation program is offered to all new graduate assistants at the beginning of each semester. The graduate assistant orientation is provided online or face to face and is a requirement for all new assistants.
Information regarding responsibilities of graduate assistants, assignment of duties, benefits and pay schedules can be found at the Office of Research and Graduate Studies website. Graduate assistantships are considered security sensitive positions by the university, and criminal histories will be checked.
Students seeking on-campus employment may view available jobs online. Students must apply online, and the hiring department will arrange an interview.
All students employed by the university are required to complete new paperwork and training provided by human resources before their first day of employment. If students have not worked on campus previously, they also should attend training provided by the Center for Career and Professional Development. It is the employing department’s responsibility to ensure that all new student employees report to Human Resources for paperwork processing and, if applicable, complete training at the CCPD before they begin work. Once the necessary employment forms and training have been completed, the student may be authorized to work on campus.
The university has scholarships available to new and returning graduate students. Scholarships are based on need, merit, or athletic and special skills. Selection criteria may include, but are not limited to, an applicant’s academic record, degree goals, financial status and performance on standardized tests. SFA has a centralized scholarship office within the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships. SFA has developed a single application for most SFA-awarded scholarships. The SFA scholarship application opens Sept. 1 and closes Feb. 1 each year. Scholarship applications are evaluated by scholarship committees based upon specific requirements for each scholarship.
The university complies with all state and federal laws concerning awarding scholarships and other financial assistance. Some scholarships are renewable based upon academic performance while others are one-time awards.