Graduate Students

Sources of assistance

Federal and MSU need-based aid

Graduate students who are US Citizens or Permanent Residents may apply for federal and MSU need-based loans and grants by filing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). See Types of Aid for programs available.

Most federal programs require enrollment at half time or more as shown in the Enrollment Chart. Some graduate students have special requirements, however, which are discussed below.


Fellowships are financial resources that do not have to be repaid. They are generally granted based on academic excellence, but some also have need components. Michigan State University supplies funding for several different types of fellowships including travel and emergencies. Contact your department for information.


Assistantships are awarded through individual departments, although there are also some available through administrative offices such as Residence Life. The work can be either as a teaching assistant (TA) or a research assistant (RA). More than 3000 graduate students hold assistantships at MSU.

To qualify, you must be in a graduate degree program and make satisfactory academic progress. A 3.0 grade point average is the minimum requirement, though it is higher in some departments or colleges.

Benefits include a stipend (monthly paycheck), tuition waiver of 9 credits per semester (fall and spring), and health insurance. Matriculation and Infrastructure fees are also waived.

If you received an award package as a regular grad student prior to receiving an assistantship, your package may have included more aid than you're actually entitled to and would therefore need to be reduced. MSU is required to follow federal rules in the awarding of aid and MUST reduce certain types of aid if you originally had a regular graduate budget and now have a graduate assistantship. This is because we may only cover your actual costs. While it may seem that something is being taken away from you when we adjust your award package, it is actually being replaced by the benefit of free tuition.

Special status

Not all graduate student programs are created equal. If you fall into one of these special categories, you may be ineligible for aid or have your aid reduced:

Students who are provisionally admitted or dual enrolled may be ineligible or have limited eligibility.

Doctoral students who have completed their comprehensive exams and have been coded by their department as being in the dissertation phase of their program (code DD in SIS) will have their financial aid budgets adjusted to ACTUAL tuition costs as opposed to AVERAGE tuition costs. This may result in reduced financial aid eligibility.

Students who exceed the published timeframe to earn a degree will be denied further aid pending a successful appeal. Most Master’s programs must be completed within five calendar years of matriculation. Doctoral degrees, including dissertation, are limited to eight calendar years. You will see a Financial Aid Warning hold placed on your account in your final term of eligibility, and a Financial Aid Denial will be placed for the next term of enrollment. More information on the appeal process is found on the Satisfactory Academic Progress web page.