Funding Information for Graduate Students

General Info

PhD

Students admitted to the PhD program will be offered a full funding 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. 

Masters

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.

Types of Funding

Fellowships

There are many fellowship opportunities for graduate students and doing your homework regarding deadlines and requirements is key.   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 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.

The table below lists some ideas for fellowship funding but is not exhaustive.  Please keep in mind this is a general idea of deadline dates but many times our department conducts and internal nomination review to decide who will move forward in some COE and Rackham competitions.  Look for emails from ASO regarding internal deadlines and procedures.

Funding Source Link to information Deadline Eligibility
COE Towner Prize for Outstanding PhD Research September PhD
DOE DOE Computational Science Fellowship September All
Rackham German Academic Exchange (DAAD) September All
UM Dow Sustainability Fellows for Masters September Masters
Hertz Foundation Hertz Foundation October PhD
NSF NSF GRFP October All
Rackham Rackham International Students Fellowship/Chia-Lun Lo Fellowship October All
Rackham Rackham Non-Traditional Fellowships October Masters
Rackham Lurcy Fellowship October All
Rackham Shapiro/Malik/Forrest Awards October All
COE COE AWARDS AND PRIZES November All
GEM National Consortium for Graduate Degrees for Minorities in Engineering and Science November All
Rackham Dolores Zohrab Liebmann Fund Fellowship November All
Rackham ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Awards November PhD
COE Towner Prize for Outstanding GSI December All
DOD SMART December All
Ford Foundation Ford Predoc/Dissertation December PhD
NDSEG NDSEG Fellowships December PhD
Rackham Big Ten Academic Alliance Smithsonian Institution Fellowship December PhD
Rackham Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Awards January All
ME Alexander Azarkhin Scholarship February PhD
ME Robert M. Caddell Award February Faculty/Graduate Student
ME William Mirsky Fellowship February Masters
Rackham Rackham International Research Awards February All
Environmental Protection Agency EPA varies All
GradSchools.com Other fellowships varies All
Homeland Security DHS varies All
NASA NASA Fellowships varies All
Sandia National Laboratories Sandia Fellowships varies All
ASEE Other fellowships vaires All
Rackham Professional Development Grant ongoing All
Rackham Rackham Graduate Student Research Grants ongoing All
Rackham Rackham Conference Travel Grant ongoing All

Be sure to look for information on our Fellowship Workshops hosted by the Graduate Chair each Fall.  ME has a great success rate with students who participate.  

Graduate Student Research Assistantship (GSRA)

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.

Grader

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).

Funding Opportunities in Mechanical Engineering

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.

In addition to fellowship opportunities listed above, students may also acquire additional monetary awards to supplement paying tuition or living expenses. Students can explore outside opportunities on their own and see below for departmental awards. Other award information will be distributed via email from the ME ASO.  The Mechanical Engineering department will seek nominations for these awards in the winter term: 

Alexander Azarkhin Scholarship This scholarship is presented to a U-M ME Ph.D. student who has an interest in Applied Mechanics. Alexander Azarkhin, who came to the U.S. from Russia to earn a second Ph.D, gifted it. After the U-M ME 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. Must be in your first three years of ME PhD studies to be eligible for this stipend award.  

J.A. Bursley Mechanical Engineering Award This award is presented to a U-M ME senior who demonstrates, by scholastic record and leadership abilities in extracurricular activities, unusual promise of developing into a leader in mechanical engineering.  The team is awarded an honorarium to be shared.  

Lloyd H. Donnell Scholarship Fund This scholarship is presented to a student who exhibits outstanding achievement in the area of engineering mechanics as demonstrated by academic excellence in solid mechanics, dynamics and fluid mechanics courses and/or by the completion of an outstanding independent study project in these technical areas.  This stipend award is for ME MSE students who show outstanding research achievement and high academic achievement.  

Payment, Insurance, and Tax Information

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:

Funding

Mechanism

Stiped Pay

Frequency

Stiped Pay

Dates

Income Taxes

Automatically

Witheld

Fellowship Monthly

The 4th Monday

of each month

No

GSRA Monthly

Last business day

of the month

Yes
GSI Monthly

Last business day

of the month

Yes
GSSA Monthly

Last business day 

of the month

Yes
Temporary Bi-Weekly

Every other

Friday

Yes

Employment Paperwork

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 Human Resources department (2370 GG Brown) handles employment paperwork for students.

Compensation

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 or visit the Academic HR site. Please note that the rates for the upcoming academic year are usually not determined until late July or early August.  More information on Academic Human Resources may be found here: https://hr.umich.edu/working-u-m/my-employment/academic-human-resources/graduate-student

Benefits

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.

The benefits office makes it possible for students to add coverage to their insurance plan. We strongly recommend looking into 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.