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Funding Information for Graduate Students

Sections of this Page:

Types of Funding

Funding Opportunities in Mechanical Engineering

Payment, Insurance, and Tax Information

General Info


Students admitted to the PhD program will be offered a full funding package for their studies. The offer 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. 

When a student selects their PhD research group it is expected that the faculty advisor will have research support or other available funding in order to finance tuition, stipend and benefits costs of the degree.


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


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.  Students who are awarded external funding should inform their advisor/department so that a funding plan can be agreed upon.  ME likes to advertise these accomplishments throughout the department.  

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 an 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
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   December PhD
CNC Machines CNC Machines.Net Scholarship January All
Rackham Big Ten Academic Alliance Smithsonian Institution Fellowship December PhD
Rackham Rackham Predoctoral Fellowship January PhD
Rackham Barbour Scholarship January All
Rackham Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Awards January All
Rackham The Gupta Values Scholarship February All
ME Alexander Azarkhin Scholarship February PhD
ME Robert M. Caddell Award February Faculty/Graduate Student
ME William and Shirley Mirsky Fellowship February Masters
Rackham Rackham International Research Awards February All
Environmental Protection Agency EPA varies All 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 Professional Development Grants ongoing PhD
Rackham Rackham Graduate Student Emergency Funds ongoing All
Rackham Graduate Student Professional Travel with Children 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.  

Other information regarding GSRA appointments may be found here:

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.

*Any GSI on appointment within ME must have expressed permission to register for credits that will generate augmented tuition.  Please contact ASO for more information:  

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 Summer semester for a Fall appointment (starting in September).

50% GSI assignments in the ME department are assigned based on a 90:1 ratio for lecture based courses and a 32:1 ratio for lab courses. Courses which are lab based include ME 250, 305, 350, 395, 420, 495, and 552. Partial GSI appointments less than 50% are assigned based on the following enrollments: 

45 students=25% appointment
65 students=35% appointment
90 students=50% appointment

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).

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: 

William and Shirley Mirsky Memorial Fellowship 

Details: Presented to an ME MSE student who has exhibited outstanding research achievement and high academic achievement.   

Eligibility: ME Masters students who have shown outstanding research and academic achievement.  The nominee must be enrolled in the ME Masters program during the Winter 2018 semester to be eligible for the award. 

Award Amount: $1,500

Awards Available: 2

Term Paid: Winter 

Alexander Azarkhin Scholarship 

Details: Presented to a PhD student who has an interest in Applied Mechanics (heat transfer, fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, systems & controls, solid mechanics, and/or dynamics & vibrations).  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. 

Eligibility: ME PhD students who have an interest in applied mechanics and are in their 1st, 2nd or 3rd year of the PhD program.

Award Amount: $2,500

Awards Available: 1

Term Paid: Winter 

Robert M. Caddell Memorial Award for Research

Details: Robert M. Caddell was a faculty member and the Graduate Chairman of the Mechanical Engineering Department during his tenure in ME from the 1960s thru 1989. His research was in the area of mechanical behavior of materials, deformation and fracture, metal forming, sheet metal forming, and mechanical properties of polymers. This award is granted to a Faculty/Grad Student team that have jointly made significant contributions to research in materials and/or manufacturing. This award carries an honorarium of $5,000 to be shared among the team members.  Research teams may be nominated by either a faculty member or graduate student. Self nominations are acceptable for this award. Remember that awards such as this increase the prestige of your research and education endeavors in the graduate program and allow research programs to expand their impact.

Eligibility: Faculty/Graduate student team which has jointly made a significant contribution to research in the areas of materials and/or manufacturing.

Payment, Insurance, and Tax Information

When a student gets paid depends on three things:

  • completion of employment paperwork (including background checks which take some time to process)
  • 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. More details on tax information for graduate students are also available here :



Stipend Pay


Stipend Pay


Income Taxes



Fellowship Monthly

The 4th Monday

of each month


GSRA Monthly

Last business day

of the month

GSI Monthly

Last business day

of the month

GSSA Monthly

Last business day 

of the month

Temporary Bi-Weekly

Every other



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.


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:


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.  When defending or moving from one type of funding to another (ie: Fellowship to GSRA) it is best to discuss when your coverage ends with your PI and the ASO to ensure no lapse.  

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.