Stephen F. Austin State University’s Office of Student Financial Assistance is committed to helping graduate students meet their financial needs. SFA provides graduate students traditional financial assistance in the form of state grants, work-study programs 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 fafsa.ed.gov. For priority consideration, applications should be received by the Office of Student Financial Assistance 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.
Typically, graduate students qualify for grant funding through the state TPEG and institutional Lumberjack Grant programs and benefit from elevated federal loan eligibility.
Federal regulations require that students attend all classes in order to receive federal financial aid funds. Eligibility for federal student aid is, in part, based on your enrollment status for the term in which you are enrolled. Enrollment will be checked beginning the first class day of each term through the census date. Students will be administratively dropped by the registrar’s office from any course where attendance cannot be demonstrated. Based upon this information, your financial aid will be re-evaluated accordingly.
Dropping courses may result in a reduction of financial aid funds for the current term. 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, students should contact their financial aid counselor, or visit sfasu.edu/faid.
Students who withdraw from the university or receive all QFs or any combination of QFs and Ws will be subject to a return of financial aid for the semester in which aid was received. (Please see the Return of Funds by Financial Aid Recipients section below.)
Return of Funds by Financial Aid Recipients
Federal regulations require SFA to perform a Return of Title IV Funds calculation for all students who receive federal financial aid and officially withdraw during the semester. 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 guidelines. 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. 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 Student Financial Assistance with documentation of continued attendance if she or he receives all QFs, or any combination of Ws and QFs, for the semester. Documentation must be provided within 21 days of the end of the semester, unless an extension is announced.
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 or provisional admission to Research and Graduate Studies and be in good academic standing.
There are three 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 an academic 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 assistants assigned to the 50-percent 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 (if the student holds an assistantship during the summer.) Should a graduate assistant fall below the six or three semester hour minimum for a semester or summer session, she or he will 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 she/he must be enrolled to receive the benefits.
Except for the Ph.D., Ed.D. and M.F.A. 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 she or he 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, she or he 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 the fall semester each year. Details as to time and place for the orientation session will be provided through the academic departments. They also are available through the Office of Research and Graduate Studies upon request.
Information regarding responsibilities of graduate assistants, assignment of duties, benefits and pay schedules can be found at the 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 trainings 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 trainings 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 Student Financial Assistance. The scholarship office has developed a single application for most SFA-awarded scholarships. Scholarship applications are due Feb. 1 each year. Scholarship applications are evaluated by a scholarship committee 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.