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Financial Support

6. Financial Support

6.1 Financial Support

Students that are supported on a Graduate Research Assistantship (GRA), Graduate Teaching Assistantship (GTA), or Fellowship earn a semi-monthly stipend. These students also receive an in-state tuition scholarship, Academic Fee, Library Fee, and Engineering Fee for every semester the appointment is awarded. Students earning at least $4,000 in an academic year are eligible for the U.F. Differential Scholarship that pays the out-of-state tuition. Comprehensive Fees are paid by the student each semester. Non-resident students also pay the Capital and Equipment Fee.

Health Insurance Premium Compensation

Virginia Tech offers a health insurance plan for graduate students that are funded through an assistantship or fellowship appointment. The program covers 90% of the cost of health insurance for full-time graduate students receiving a full or partial assistantship. Please contact the Student Medical Insurance Office for detailed information about the university's health insurance plan, coverage, costs, effective dates and other relevant information.

Student Services Building
Blacksburg, VA 24061
Phone: 1-888-234-0298 (toll free) or 540-231-6226, or 540-231-6303
Fax: 540-231-6237

Purchasing this plan is optional for U.S. citizens and permanent residents. International students are required to purchase insurance coverage for the duration of their stay.

6.2 Assistants

Graduate Teaching Assistant

Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTA) assist ECE faculty in teaching lower division courses, including laboratory teaching assignments, or in providing other appropriate professional assistance. A first year GTA with no prior experience will not be assigned full responsibility for a lecture course.

Continuing graduate students enrolled in the M.S., Thesis, direct-Ph.D., and Ph.D. Programs are eligible to compete for a Graduate Teaching Assistantship on a semester by semester basis. For continuing students, the Virginia Tech graduate GPA, number of course credit hours completed and area of expertise are factored into the award decision.

Graduate Research Assistant

Graduate Research Assistants are graduate students conducting academically significant research under the direction of a regular faculty member, who is generally a principal investigator on an external grant or contract.

Students interested in a Graduate Research Assistantship (GRA) are advised to directly contact ECE faculty that are in their area of expertise to inquire about their availability of research funding. Research award decisions are made by the individual faculty.

Work Assignments and Course Loads

Assistantship students are expected to be available for performance of their duties the entire period of the assistantship. Assistantship appointments require a work commitment of 20 hours per week. The duties of a GRA are determined by the Principal Investigator in charge of the research project, and the actual number of hours worked may vary, though an average of 20 hours each week is expected in direct support of the research project. Graduate Research Assistants are expected to work during normal university vacation periods, except for holidays.

The duties of GTAs are assigned by the ECE Assistant Department Head that handles GTA appointments for ECE. Students' class schedules requested at Registration are required to make the GTA assignments. GTAs generally have contact with undergraduate students and may assist with lecture courses and/or teach laboratory courses under the direction of a faculty member or be assigned to grade papers or other support work for a faculty member.

GTAs and GRAs must take at least 12 but not more than 18 credit hours per semester. Note that all students working on a thesis degree or Ph.D. should add research hours by the add deadline to bring their credit load total to 12 credit hours per semester. Students will be held accountable only for research hours shown on the plan of study. Other students should register for 12 hours, if possible.

Continuing an Assistantship

The continuance or renewal of an assistantship is contingent on satisfactory academic progress, satisfactory performance of GTA or GRA duties, and professional and personal conduct of an exemplary nature. At the end of each semester, the faculty member directly supervising the student will evaluate the quality and quantity of work performed. The performance of GTAs is reviewed by the ECE Assistant Department Head for Undergraduate Education.

Students normally are expected to maintain a 3.0 GPA or higher in order to hold an assistantship. However, some students occasionally run into temporary difficulties. The ECE Department will usually terminate an assistantship appointment if a student's GPA falls below the required 3.0 cumulative for more than one semester.

6.3 Changing Between a GRA and a GTA

Students may change from a GTA position to a GRA position if they find a suitable research project and arrangements are made with the Principal Investigator in charge of that research project. This switch is permitted no later than two weeks prior to the employment date.

A student holding a GRA position, however, cannot be automatically switched to a GTA position. A formal request must be made to the Assistantship Department Head during the semester preceding the semester in which the change is to be effective. In addition, the student should request that the Principal Investigator write a letter explaining the circumstances of the GRA termination and an assessment of the student's potential as a GTA. The final disposition of this matter depends on the availability of departmental funds, and the student's relative ranking among others who qualify for such funds at the time. This procedure applies to M.S., direct-Ph.D., and Ph.D. students.

6.4 Fellowships/Scholarships/Awards

The ECE Department has several Fellowships, Scholarships and Awards available.

Bradley Fellowships

Bradley Fellowships are available each year to the outstanding U.S., direct-Ph.D. and Ph.D. applicants applying to the ECE Department. Fellowships are awarded in the amount of $32.859, plus the in-state and out-of-state tuition fees for three academic years. The minimum GPA for consideration is 3.8 and thus a 3.5 must be maintained for renewal of fellowship each semester.

The Bradley Fellowship is the most prestigious award available within the ECE Department.

Outstanding International Graduate Student Award

This award is sponsored by the Center for Power Engineering at Virginia Tech. The competition is open to all international students in the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. The amount of the award is $1,000 and is based on the student's academic and research performance. This is awarded in the spring of each year.

Graduate Teaching Assistant Award

This award recognizes outstanding contributions to the Department's instructional program by a Graduate Teaching Assistant. The winner is selected based on student evaluations of teaching and faculty recommendations. The winner receives a $100 cash prize and a certificate. The winner is also usually nominated for the University GTA award.

William A. Blackwell Award

This award is presented annually to the ECE graduate student who is judged to have made the best research presentation during the year. The award is named in honor of Dr. William A. Blackwell who was a faculty member in the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering from 1966 until his retirement in 1988, serving as Department Head from 1966 to 1981. Students are nominated by faculty, usually based on a presentation at one of the research area seminars within the Department. The winner receives a cash prize between $200 and $300 and a certificate.

The Rappaport Wireless Communication Scholarship

This endowed scholarship, established by Theodore S. Rappaport, a member of the faculty, and his wife, Brenda M. V. Rappaport, provides support to seniors or graduate students who are interested in pursuing a career or graduate studies in the wireless communication field. Applications are solicited during the spring semester. The Department's Awards Committee selects the winner. The dollar amount awarded each year may vary, but it is typically between $500 and $600. (For a listing of outside fellowships available, see the Graduate Funding Opportunities)

6.5 Student Loans

Students can apply for Student Loans through the Office of Scholarship and Financial Aid located in 200 Student Services Building.

6.6 The Graduate Coop Program

International graduate students may apply for a Cooperative Education Program/Curriculum Practical Training, through the Virginia Tech Graduate School. This program grants opportunities for international graduate students to obtain on-the-job training through employment. The required Graduate School Form and detailed information is available at