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Students admitted to the PhD program will be offered a financial package for their studies. The offer usually entails 4 years of funding for students that come into the program with a master's degree in a relevant area of study; or 5 years of funding for students that enter the program after receiving a bachelor's degree. Financial support includes a stipend, tuition and registration fees, as well as health and dental benefits. Support is offered in the form of a fellowship, Graduate Student Research Assistantship (GSRA), Graduate Student Instructorship (GSI), or Graduate Student Staff Assistant (GSSA) position.
Students admitted to the Master's program are expected to secure their own financial support. A student may fund his/her education through personal funds, loans, financial aid, fellowships, or through employment at the University. The University of Michigan establishes standard student budgets each year to help students plan how they will pay for their graduate program. Master's students are encouraged to seek employment opportunities in other academic departments and around campus.
What are the funding opportunities at UM?
There are many opportunities on campus that can be used to fund a graduate education. Some of the opportunities are available in the form of financial aid such as grants or loans, fellowships, or employment opportunities which include GSRAs, GSIs, GSSAs, and grader appointments, also subsidized housing and childcare can provide substantial assistance. The opportunities can be specific to the student's academic program of study and can be both need or merit based. The funding sources are managed either through the Rackham Graduate school, individual academic departments, or the Office of Financial Aid.
Below is a list of useful links and job sites:
- Rackham Graduate School
- University of Michigan Academic Human Resources
- University of Michigan Student Employment Office
- Funding at UofM
Within the ME department, students can be funded through the following mechanisms: fellowships, GSRAs, GSIs, GSSAs, graders, or as temporary employees (temps). GSRAs are appointed by individual faculty members and the department is not involved in the selection of GSRAs. The ME department coordinates the appointment of fellowships, GSIs, graders, and temps. The opportunities for employment in the department vary each term.
PhD Students. The financial commitment offer for PhD students typically includes at least one term on a fellowship and the remaining terms on a GSRA. Occasionally a GSI may be necessary to maintain funding continuity and/or to benefit the professional development of the student. It is expected that students will be on a GSRA unless a GSRA is temporarily unavailable from their research advisor. If such a circumstance arises, it is very likely students will have a GSI appointment. Students are typically employed via multiple mechanisms during their tenure in the program and more than one mechanism is often used to fund a single student in any given year or sometimes even in a single term.
Master's Students. Master's students are eligible to apply for GSIs and graderships. Students are also encouraged to contact individual faculty to inquire about GSRA positions. It is important to note that applying for or inquiring about a position does not guarantee employment.
There are many fellowship opportunities available that students may qualify for. Most fellowship opportunities are available only to PhD students however, master's students are also eligible for certain fellowships. There are two categories of fellowships: internal, those that arise from within the University, and external, those that originate from organizations or individuals that are not directly associated with the University.
Internal/U of M Fellowships. The source for internal fellowships can originate from the department, the College of Engineering, or the Rackham Graduate School. Some of these fellowships require a nomination from the department while others have a self nomination process. First year PhD students that are awarded a fellowship as a part of their funding package will usually receive one of the following, highly competitive awards: a departmental fellowship, the Dean's/Named Fellowship, or the Rackham Merit Fellowships. Other available internal fellowships can be found at the sites listed below. Email notifications and instructions are also sent to eligible students as award deadlines approach.
External Fellowships. Students in the ME department regularly receive external fellowships, such as the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. Students apply for external fellowships on their own and the department is not involved in the process. The selection for these awards is handled through an external organization and students interested in applying must take the initiative to do so. Students may have secured an external fellowship at time of application, at admission, or even after admission. Most are fully funded, but when they are not, many are cost-shared by the Rackham Graduate School and/or Mechanical Engineering to allow full funding for the student.
A selection of popular opportunities available in recent years include:
- National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program
- National Defense Science & Engineering Graduate Fellowship
- Department of Energy Computational Science Graduate Fellowship
- Department of Homeland Security Scholarship and Fellowship Program
- Hertz Foundation Graduate Fellowship
- Environmental Protection Agency STAR
- SMART (Department of Defense)
- NASA Harriett G. Jenkins Predoctoral Graduate Fellowship Program
- National Consortium for Graduate Degrees for Minorities in Engineering and Science
- Ford Foundation Diversity Fellowships
- Vietnam Education Foundation Fellowships
- Other fellowships listed by ASEE (American Society of Engineering Education)
- Other fellowships listed by GradSchools.com
If you know of a fellowship opportunity that should be listed above, please email the link to the ASO.
Graduate Student Research Assistantship
This is the primary mechanism for funding graduate student research in Mechanical Engineering, especially for PhD students after their first year. GSRA positions are funded by faculty through their research grants. Students secure GSRA appointments on their own and are encouraged to contact individual faculty to inquire about working in their research lab and possibly receiving a GSRA.
Students with GSRAs are expected to conduct appropriate research under the guidance of their research advisor. The duties of a GSRA will vary based on the faculty member who is supporting the position. It is the students' responsibility to ensure research work is progressing steadily.
While holding a GSRA position, a student is not guaranteed time in which to take a vacation. Advisor's are generally amenable to this request and will work with the student to accommodate a vacation plan. GSRAs who wish to take a vacation during the Spring/Summer term must coordinate vacation time and/or compensation with their research advisor. Contact your advisor to discuss to discuss the vacation policies for your lab.
Graduate Student Instructorship (GSI)
GSIs have an extremely important role in teaching undergraduate students at the University of Michigan. GSIs are generally in charge of facilitating discussions in small sections connected to large lecture courses, running laboratory sections, and holding office hours which can include one-to-one teaching. Responsibilities frequently include grading and giving feedback on students' written work as well.
GSI appointments can be within the ME department, or for alternative U of M departments. ME students are informed when the online ME GSI application is available. View other department listings for GSI appointments. There is an application process for most GSI positions.
ME GSI Application Process. There is an application process for students wanting to be considered for a GSI appointment in the Mechanical Engineering Department. The online application is announced to ME graduate students twice per academic year, during the Fall semester for a Winter appointment (starting in January) and again during the Winter semester for a Fall appointment (starting in September).
Engineering Graduate Student Instructor Teacher Training Program. All new GSIs in the College of Engineering are required to attend training hosted by the Center for Research Learning and Training Engineering (CRLT-Engineering). The training includes one all day Teacher Training Program along with an Advanced Practice Teaching session. The all day Teacher Training Program is held the week prior to the start of the term. For the winter term, this can happen as early as January 3rd. Please arrange vacation times accordingly. The Advanced Practice Teaching session takes place approximately two weeks later. Please visit the training details website for additional information.
Language (English) Proficiency Requirements. The English Language Institute has developed a procedure for testing the spoken English of prospective GSIs whose undergraduate education was at an institution in which the language of instruction was not English. The evaluation procedure is a performance test that consists of four tasks that assess a candidate's competence and effectiveness in the type of communication typically used by GSIs at the University of Michigan. The test evaluates proficiency at the high intermediate to advanced level. The tasks and evaluation criteria of the Graduate Student Instructor Oral English Test (GSI OET) also serve as diagnostic tools to identify linguistic strengths and weaknesses. This information is used to recommend or require placement, if needed, into courses offered through the English Language Institute. A rating of 4 is required to be approved for an appointment as a GSI.
Graduate Student Staff Assistant (GSSA)
The GSSA is a graduate student whose employment is a part of a degree requirement or is otherwise considered academically relevant by the department or degree program in which the degree is being pursued. GSSAs perform administrative, counseling or educational duties other than those of a GSI. These positions are rare and not usually available in ME.
Graders are hired by the Mechanical Engineering Department to assist faculty with scoring objective and subjective examinations and papers at the undergraduate and graduate level. Additional responsibilities can include but are not limited to: computing and recording examination scores and doing research in course development. Graders are hired as temporary employees in the Mechanical Engineering Department.
ME Grader Application Process. There is an application process for students wanting to be considered for a Grader appointment in the Mechanical Engineering Department. The online application is announced to ME graduate students twice per academic year, during the Fall semester (around November) for a Winter appointment (starting in January) and again during the Summer semester (around July) for a Fall appointment (starting in September).
GSRAs, GSSAs, GSIs, and graders must fill out employment paperwork BEFORE beginning work. If a student started out on a Fellowship, then in a subsequent term is supported as a GSRA, the student would need to fill out employment paperwork prior to the start of the term. The Mechanical Engineering Main Office (2250 GG Brown) handles employment paperwork for students.
The pay rate for GSRAs, GSIs, and GSSAs is dependent on the percentage of the appointment and the academic year. Due to this variation, pay rates are not listed online and it is advised that students who are interested in the pay rates email the Academic Services Office for up to date information. Please note that the rates for the upcoming academic year are usually not determined until late July or early August.
When a student gets paid depends on three things:
- completion of employment paperwork
- enrollment in the appropriate number of credits
- type of position
GSRAs, GSSAs, and GSIs must be enrolled in at least 6 credits to be considered full time and receive pay. Fellowship students must be enrolled in at least 8 credits to be considered full time and receive pay due to the nature of UM financial operations. Each time a student changes position, it is likely there will be a change in the payment schedule and how income taxes are handled. Students are responsible for understanding the pay schedule and taxation rules.
International students are not required to pay income taxes if their home country maintains a Tax Treaty with the United States and the student submits the proper form to claim an exemption. International students should consult the International Center website to understand their rights and responsibilities for U.S. Taxes. Please note if taxes are paid when it is not required students will not be given a refund.
Below is an overview of the pay schedule and tax withholding:
The 4th Monday
of each month
Last business day
of the month
Last business day
of the month
Last business day
of the month
Most fellowship students are paid on the 4th Monday of each month, but this date varies from month to month. However, some fellows such as those supported by a Rackham Fellowship, are paid either in one large lump sum at the beginning of the semester or on a completely different schedule altogether. Students may contact the ASO for questions about their specific fellowship.
Income taxes are NOT withheld from stipend payments and students receiving a fellowship must save a portion of their income in order to make quarterly payments to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) via a personal check.
GSRA, GSI, and GSSA
Students who have a GSRA, GSI or GSSA are considered UM Employees. Employees are paid at the end of each month with income taxes automatically withheld each month. Federal Insurance Contribution Act (FICA) taxes are not withheld during enrollment months (i.e., fall and winter terms) and therefore, the amount of taxes withheld increases during the Spring/Summer term.
For PhD students in good standing that began the program in F09 or later, if a GSI appointment is less than 50%, the remainder of the student's stipend will be paid by GSRA, temporary employee appointment or fellowship (this varies on a case-by-case basis). Each of these mechanisms follows its own pay schedule and has its own tax ramifications. For example, students who have a GSI appointment and a temporary appointment will be paid at the end of the month for the GSI appointment portion and bi-weekly for the temporary portion of the appointment.
GSRAs are required to "certify their effort" for the GSRA appointment. HM Human Resources (HR) will contact students directly when this is needed. Students who are funded by both a GSRA appointment and another mechanism concurrently will be required to describe (to HR, upon request) how the wages earned from the GSRA appointment are for work that is completely unrelated to work being done in relation to the other source of funding.
Graders are hired as temporary employees. Temporary employees are paid baid bi-weekly, one week after the work period has ended (e.g., wages for hours worked running the weeks of June1-8 and 9-15 would be paid on June 21). Temporary employees must submit a time record, signed by their advisor/supervisor for hours worked during each pay period. Students receiving this type of support will be contacted by an ME HR representative with instructions for completing hiring paperwork and submitting bi-weekly time sheets.
Income taxes are automatically withheld from each bi-weekly payment and quarterly income tax payments are NOT needed. FICA taxes are not withheld during enrollment months (i.e., fall and winter terms) and therefore, the amount of taxes withheld increases during the Spring/Summer term when students are not enrolled for credit.
All graduate students, regardless of how they are being funded, are eligible for GradCare health insurance and the UM dental plan Dental Option I. For PhD students, these benefits will be provided to you at no cost. However, benefits eligibility and enrollment must be reinstated each time a change in funding occurs; therefore, it is important for students to check their benefits elections on Wolverine Access each time their funding mechanism changes.
Please visit the Benefits Office website for additional information on health benefit options, procedures, and deadlines.
Purchasing Additional Benefits
The benefits office makes it possible for students to add coverage to their insurance plan. We strongly recommend looking in to this. Do not assume the basic coverage is right for you. Students who elect additional benefits (e.g., Dental Option II or the Vision Plan) are responsible for paying the monthly co-pay associated with those additional benefits. For students who are funded as a GSRA, GSI, or grader (temporary employee) status, those co-pays are automatically deducted from stipend payments. For fellows, the co-pay is charged to the student via the student account and the student receives an e-bill.
University Health Service
Currently enrolled UM students have few expenses at UHS, because they are charged a health service fee as part of tuition. This fee covers most services at UHS. "Currently enrolled UM student" means a student who is currently taking regular classes on the Ann Arbor campus.
For additional information visit the University Health Services website.
In addition to fellowship opportunities, students may also acquire additional monetary awards to supplement paying tuition or living expenses. Internal and External awards and scholarships are available to both PhD and Master's students. Students can view University opportunities on the Rackham website and see below for departmental awards. In addition, external awards can be found through searching online and the department is not involved in the application or selection process.
Alexander Azarkhin Scholarship
ME PhD students who have an interest in applied mechanics and are in their 1st, 2nd or 3rd year of the PhD program.
When Alexander Azarkhin came to the U.S. from Russia to earn a second PhD, the department provided him with some much-needed assistance by helping to fund his studies. Azarkhin later decided to pay it forward by establishing this award for graduate students in ME.
The ME ASO Office sends out an email with the details of how to apply for the scholarship for that year. Usually Applicants need to submit the following to the Academic Services Office:
- (a) a personal statement describing why you are a good candidate for this award and/or
(b) a nomination statement from any faculty member describe why you are a good candidate for this award.
- Current C.V.
- Current (unofficial) transcript
William Mirsky Memorial Fellowship
ME Master's students with outstanding research and academic achievement. The nominee must be enrolled in the ME Master's program during the Winter term to be eligible for the award.
Presented to an ME MSE student who has exhibited outstanding research achievement and high academic achievement.
The ME ASO Office sends out an email with the details of how to apply for the scholarship for that year. Usually applicants need to submit a one-paragraph nomination statement from a professor, submitted to email@example.com.
Rackham Conference Travel Grant
The Rackham Conference Travel Grant is intended to provide opportunities for Rackham graduate students to become familiar with, and participate in the life of, their academic professions. As part of its University-wide commitment to advancing international research and training, the International Institute provides funding for 30 awards to international destinations. Students who are eligible to apply for the grant typically receive the funds, note this means presenting a paper or poster at the conference.
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