General Funding – FAQs
What are the different types of funding available to graduate students at UC Merced?
Graduate students can be funded in many ways, but the most common forms are the following:
Teaching Assistant (TA) – A form of employment to support instruction in courses.
Graduate Student Researcher (GSR) – A form of employment to support specific research projects.
Fellowship – A form of student aid to support the student’s academic progress.
Student Loans – A form of student aid that helps defer the cost of educational expenses by borrowing now and repaying later.
Personal Funds – Individual savings/income and/or private loans.
How many credit hours (units) do I need to be registered in to be eligible for funding?
Students must be enrolled in at least 12 credit hours (units) during the semester(s) receiving the funds.
What is the minimum GPA requirement to receive funding?
Students must maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 to remain eligible for funding.
Are fellowships evenly disbursed between the Fall and Spring semesters?
It depends on the guidelines set forth by the fellowship. Commonly fellowships are disbursed evenly between the Fall and Spring semesters.
What steps do I need to take in order to apply for fellowships?
Entering graduate students, who are eligible, are automatically considered for recruitment fellowships (ECR, CGF, etc.).
Continuing graduate students who would like to apply for Graduate Division Fellowships (FJ, PDY, GDDY, FMP, MV, etc.) must submit an application for each fellowship during the fellowship application season (October - November, prior to the award year).
Please note, the Schools, Graduate Programs and/or Faculty have the ability to offer their students fellowship opportunities as well. We recommend contacting your School and/or Graduate Program for more information.
Do I have to accept a fellowship award?
No. Accepting the award is optional.
If I have already received a fellowship, can I still be awarded a small grant or another award?
This will depend on the guidelines set forth by the fellowship you were awarded. Certain fellowships allow for a student to be granted awards in addition to the fellowship while others prohibit further funding.
What is the difference between internal and external fellowships?
Internal fellowships are those that are funded by the University of California and administered by UCM. External fellowships are funded by outside agencies and organizations and administered by UCM.
What benefits does a Teaching Assistantship and/or Graduate Student Researcher appointment provide?
These appointments provide a monthly salary, plus in most cases, they cover the cost of Tuition, Student Services Fee and Health Services Fee via Fee Remissions. Students with such appointments usually end up only paying all or some of the Campus Based Fees.
What are Fee Remissions?
Fee Remissions are benefits of employment for eligible Teaching Assistantship (TA) and/or Graduate Student Researcher (GSR) appointments appointed at 25% FTE or higher. They are represented as credits on a student account.
Why does my student account show a past due notification when I have a Fee Remissions eligible Teaching Assistantship and/or Graduate Student Researcher appointment that covers my tuition?
If you have paid your Campus Based Fees and you know you have an appointment that will provide Fee Remissions, you should be fine. The Fee Remissions process doesn’t happen until the beginning of each semester when TA and GSR appointments are inputted into the Payroll system, so there usually is a few weeks at the beginning of each semester where some student accounts are just pending Fee Remissions processing.
Are Teaching Assistantships offered through work study?
No. Work-study does not cover Teaching Assistantships.
Where can I find a listing of currently available Teaching Assistantships?
Am I responsible for my graduate student fees?
Yes. Although it is true that most of our students receive some sort of funding (fellowship, TA or GSR) that will cover most of their fees, all students are technically responsible for all of their tuition and fees. In addition, all graduate students are responsible for paying their Campus Based fees regardless of their funding, or lack of funding, by the Fee Payment Deadline each semester. Students should know before a semester begins what type of funding they will be receiving or if they will be self-funded.
Student Loans – FAQs
Can I receive federal student loans and a fellowship at the same time?
Almost always, No. Federal student loans and fellowships are both considered student aid and accepting a fellowship will almost always reduce your student loan eligibility.
What if I have taken a loan out for the academic year to pay for my expenses and then I accept a fellowship award mid-year?
Your student loan eligibility will be adjusted accordingly and most likely your award will go to the balance of your student loans. This usually results in the reduction of student debt and not a payout of the fellowship.
If I accept a fellowship award, will that award affect my student loan eligibility?
Almost always, Yes. Fellowship awards and student loans are all considered a form of student financial aid, so they must look at each other and react to one another when they both exist within the same academic year. If you are offered a loan, regardless if you accept it, any fellowship you accept will almost always impact your student loan eligibility. In most cases, fellowship awards that are accepted by students with student loans see their award go toward the balance of their student loans rather than a refund being generated from their student account. If you have been offered an award and you have specific questions about your student loan eligibility, please contact the Financial Aid Office.
If I accept a student loan, could a future and/or current fellowship be impacted?
Almost always, Yes. Fellowship awards and student loans are all considered a form of student financial aid, so they must look at each other and react to one another when they both exist within the same academic year. If you accept a student loan, any fellowship you have or will accept within that same academic year will almost always impact your student loan eligibility. In most cases, fellowship awards that are accepted by students with student loans see their award go toward the balance of their student loans rather than a refund being generated from their student account. If you have been offered an award and you have specific questions about your student loan eligibility, please contact the Financial Aid Office.
What types of loans are available?
Federal Direct Unsubsidized Stafford Loans
Federal Direct PLUS Loan Program
Alternative Loan Programs
Non-Residents of California – FAQs
Do I have to pay the Non-Resident Supplemental Tuition (NRST) on my student account?
Masters students are responsible for their NRST fee.
First-year Ph.D. students who are US citizens or permanent residents classified as non-California residents may be eligible for NRST coverage.
Ph.D. students who are US citizens or permanent residents classified as non-California residents are expected to establish their California residency by the start of their second year or they will be responsible for paying their NRST fee thereafter.
Ph.D. students who have been advanced to candidacy for more than six semesters or self-funded Ph.D. students are responsible for their NRST fee.
International Ph.D. students prior to advancing to candidacy may be eligible for NRST coverage. Once advanced, the NRST is waived for six semesters. After six semesters of advancement, the student is responsible for paying their NRST fee.
For more detail, please see the Graduate Policies and Procedures Handbook pages 17-19.
What happens to my internal funding if I am an international student and my Non-Resident Supplemental Tuition is paid by external funding?
External funds are always looked at first before internal funds are used to see if the external source can take the charge.
If I am an international student and receive a fellowship award, will I be granted a fellowship award for my Non-Resident Supplemental Tuition as well?
This will depend on the particular fellowship you receive. Some fellowships have the ability to include an additional fellowship to cover your Non-Resident Supplement Tuition (NRST).
Fellowship vs Employment – FAQs
Are fellowships the same thing as employment?
Fellowships are not a form of employment. They are intended to support your academic goals as a student and are considered a form of student financial aid.
If I signed up for a direct deposit while employed as a TA and/or GSR, will the direct deposit continue to work with my fellowship?
Unfortunately, no. Fellowships disburse through the student system and not the payroll system. The two systems do not talk to one another. If you would like to receive your fellowship disbursements through direct deposit please sign up for EFT with your student account.
Do fellowships have tax withholdings the same as employment?
Please see the Fellowship/Scholarship Tax Overview portion of our website. The possibility of a tax withholding will depend on your residency status with the US federal government.
Do I need to account for a tax liability at the end of the year?
Yes. This is especially true if you do not have tax withholdings because you might have a significant tax liability at the end of the year. Please consult with a tax professional, but you can also reference your previously filed taxes to see the difference between a previous years tax liability and the tax withholdings that might have been held to help pay that liability.
Am I covered by workers compensation insurance while solely funded by a fellowship?
Unfortunately, workers compensation is strictly associated with employment during the dates of active employment. Fellowships are not a form of employment. However, if you are traveling for university business to conduct fieldwork please register for student travel insurance for an extra level of insurance. If you are in an accident or injured while funded by a fellowship and conducting lab/field work, please utilize your student health insurance and notify email@example.com of the incident.
Will my monthly parking deduction from my paycheck continue while solely funded by a fellowship?
We are working with Transportation and Parking Services (TAPS) to set up a similar deduction type process with fellowships and have made significant progress, but until then fellows can request an adjustment to their disbursement schedule to help cover the cost of the semester based parking permit. You may request this adjustment by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Then you will need to purchase a semester-based parking permit through TAPS.
Unfortunately, fellowships do not produce paychecks nor are they processed through the payroll system so the same monthly parking deduction associated with a TA/GSR appointment is not possible at this time. But again, we’re working on a future solution.
Will I still have health insurance while solely funded by a fellowship?
Yes. Student health insurance is associated with your student status and not associated with your source of funding or level of funding.
Will I be able to contribute to a retirement account while solely funded by a fellowship?
Not through the university. Automatic contributions to a retirement account with the university are only associated with a form of employment. Please note, if your employment status ends and you have a balance of less than $2,000 in the safe harbor Defined Contribution Plan (DCP) then you cannot leave your contributions in the plan. Account balances of $1,000 or less will automatically be distributed at the end of the quarter to participants who have not provided distribution directions. Balances greater than $1,000 but less than $2,000 will be rolled over into an IRA in the participant’s name unless the participant provides distribution directions. A participant whose balance is defaulted to an IRA will be notified of the default and the name of the IRA custodian.
Please note, for graduate students, contributions to the safe harbor DCP is normally only associated with Graduate Student Researcher positions.
Am I eligible to have a travel and entertainment card when I’m solely funded by a fellowship?
Travel and entertainment cards are only available to employees. Since a fellowship is not a form of employment it does not qualify an individual to have a university travel and entertainment card. In general, students should always consult with their school support staff for any travel needs associated with their research.
Can I still receive travel reimbursements while on a fellowship?
Yes. If you are traveling for university-related purposes and have worked out a reimbursement plan with your PI, you should contact your school staff.
Some fellowships come with conference/travel funds or are tied specifically to travel. This is different from a travel reimbursement and can be processed before or after travel, depending on the guidelines determined by the funding source. Please contact the agency/office that offered the fellowship for more information.
Am I eligible to make purchases through CatBuy when I’m solely funded by a fellowship?
No, CatBuy is tied to payroll and only available to employees. In general, students should always consult with their school staff for any CatBuy needs associated with their research.
If I’m receiving an external fellowship, can I take on a Teaching Assistantship or Graduate Student Researcher appointment as well?
Students funded from full external fellowships are not permitted to hold employment during the tenure of their award or receive another full fellowship. Full fellowships are typically defined as providing a stipend commensurate with a teaching or research assistantship; that is sufficient to cover general support (living, transportation, personal, and research expenses) necessary to support the pursuit of educational goals within the award period.