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OSU Graduate Tuition Remission Policy


The Tuition Remission Task Force was charged by the Provost to develop a plan for managing tuition remission at Oregon State University. Development of a new plan was precipitated by the adoption of the budget Resource Allocation Model (RAM) in July 1, 1999. The task force was chaired by Sally Francis, Interim Dean of the Graduate School. Task Force members included Rob Specter, Toby Hayes, Roy Arnold, Thayne Dutson, Sherm Bloomer, Kay Schaffer, Wayne Kradjan, and Mary Prucha.

The University is indebted to this group for their deliberative, thoughtful and timely efforts. We thank them for their diligence in producing a final report that addresses the best interests of the institution and of graduate education at OSU.

The OSU Graduate Tuition Remission Allocation Model was developed to maximize opportunity for graduate student enrollment growth, to recognize the relationship between financial support and the quality of graduate programs and students, and to maximize our opportunity to realize graduate tuition revenue that would have been foregone.

The OSU Graduate Tuition Remission Allocation Model and attendant Tuition Remission Policies and Accounting and Management Procedures have been reviewed by the President's Cabinet, the Academic Deans, the Graduate Council, and the Graduate Education Round Table. Suggestions and concerns raised by these reviews have been considered by the Task Force and are reflected in this final report, which was approved by Tim White, Interim Provost and Executive Vice President.

As with other matters pertaining to graduate education, the Dean of the Gradate School has the authority to grant exceptions to these policies when compelling evidence indicates it is in the best interests of the institution to do so.

This policy becomes effective Fall quarter, 2000. Summer Session 2000 will be treated as in 1999: academic units will be funded by the Office of Summer Session and Pre College Programs as in previous years (e.g., 86% of tuition revenue returned to units generating the tuition); the Summer Study Privilege program will continue as in 1999 (e.g., eligible graduate students may use the privilege, but their credit hours will not be funded).

The essential features and key changes from past practice include:

  • Tuition remission will accompany 0.20 FTE or greater stipends paid by academic units from general funds.
  • Tuition remission from any source will be assessed at resident rates.
  • With prior approval, graduate tuition can be cost shared.
  • Only academic units may award tuition remissions. Administrative units may award tuition remissions indirectly by supplying associated stipend dollars to an academic unit to be used to recruit an appropriate graduate student
  • Graduate Fellows paid 0.49 FTE equivalent stipend from OSU Foundation funds may receive tuition remission.
  • Graduate Fellows paid stipends equivalent in value to 0.49 FTE or more from training grants or prestigious national scholarships may receive full or partial tuition remission through prior approval of such cost sharing.
  • Graduate School will have a discretionary pool of 5% of total tuition remission dollars.
  • Tuition remission will be accounted for in a specific budget category as a mechanism for accounting revenue foregone.

Graduate education is central to the mission of OSU and to that of top tier universities. It can be argued that measures of the reputations of universities are substantially related to their scholarly productivity and to their graduate programs. Thus, graduate education at OSU is critical to achieving our aspiration to become a top tier university. Graduate education can be characterized along several dimensions:

  • The quality and reputation of a graduate program are linked to the quality of its students and graduates.
  • Graduate student recruitment is not geographically limited. At OSU, 58% of all graduate students are from outside of Oregon; 27% are from countries other than the U.S.
  • Graduate programs compete to recruit the highest quality graduate students.

At OSU, graduate research and teaching assistantships are awarded to graduate students with superior records in their graduate and/or undergraduate work. All graduate assistants are required to perform some duties as part of their appointments. Duties of teaching assistants are related to the University's instructional program and duties of research assistants are related to the research function of the University. Graduate assistants providing duties related to fulfilling their educational requirements are paid stipends, while graduate assistants that provide service to the Institution are paid wages. However, tuition remissions are distinct and separate from graduate assistant stipends.

Graduate assistantships are considered by the Council of Graduate Schools to be primarily a form of financial aid to help graduate students complete graduate school rather than as simple employment despite the fact that graduate teaching assistants and graduate research assistants perform services for the institution (Organization and Administration of Graduate Education, CGS, Washington, D.C., 1990, p. 15). The OSU Graduate Catalog (1999-2000, p. 20) states, "Whatever the type of appointment, the graduate assistant should be regarded as a student providing service as part of a learning experience rather than as an employee whose education is secondary." Tuition remission is a common part of financial support offered to recruit and retain academically superior applicants.

Prior to the implementation of the new OSU Resource Allocation Model (RAM), tuition remission for graduate students funded by OSU general fund sources was managed centrally by the Chancellor's Office. OSU was authorized by the Chancellor's Office to provide tuition remissions to graduate students holding a minimum of 0.15 FTE appointments paid from general funds and from some grants and contracts which required cost sharing. The cost of this tuition was charged directly to the units; at the end of each fiscal year OSU had authority to write off those incurred tuition costs, up to some "reasonable" limit. The tuition remissions were revenue foregone to the State System. Presumably, if all tuition revenue had been paid to the students, some fraction of it would return to OSU, but not all of it.

Not all tuition remission would have been realized as revenue to the institution because OSU would have been unable to recruit the best graduate applicants and those students would have enrolled in graduate school elsewhere. Tuition remission is an important part of recruiting the best graduate students; the complete absence of tuition remission would not mean that all of the foregone revenue would be realized as evidenced by results of a recent survey conducted by the Survey Research Center at OSU. Of 155 applicants fully admitted to OSU for fall, 1999, but who chose to attend graduate school elsewhere and who responded to the Graduate School survey, only 45% reported having been offered a full or partial tuition remission at OSU compared to 72% who reported the offer of tuition remission at their chosen university. Of 123 OSU graduate student who initially enrolled at OSU fall term, 1999, and who responded to the survey, 68% indicated that OSU offered them a full remission; only 42% of new OSU graduate students who were also accepted at another university reported having been offered a full or partial tuition remission by the other school. That is, 68% of those who were also accepted elsewhere but chose to enroll at OSU received a tuition remission offer from OSU compared to only 45% of those who were accepted at OSU but chose to enroll elsewhere received a tuition remission offer from OSU. OSU did not realize the tuition revenue associated with the graduate student applicants who chose to not enroll at OSU.

Under the new RAM, campuses are responsible for managing and funding graduate student tuition remission. Tuition remissions are no longer funded centrally by OSU. Instead, funding of tuition remission has been shifted directly to campuses and managed locally. Revenues consist of tuition revenue and state general fund revenue calculated according to degree (i.e. master's, doctoral), residency, and level (i.e. area of study). The tuition remissions are now direct foregone revenue for OSU. If all of that tuition had been paid by students, all of it would return to OSU.

The change in the management of graduate tuition means that we need to look carefully at how we are using tuition remissions. A tuition remission policy must be developed that furthers the goals of the University and that is economically and financially sound.

Process

The Tuition Remission Task Force was appointed by the Provost to "…develop a plan for managing graduate assistant tuition remission…" The Task Force was charged with doing a cost-benefit analysis of graduate assistant tuition remission strategies and developing specific recommendations regarding the appropriate strategy for managing graduate assistant tuition remissions at OSU.

The Task Force established the following guiding principles:

  1. Maximize graduate student enrollment;
  2. Maximize the quality of graduate students enrolling at OSU; and
  3. Maximize revenue associated with graduate programs

The Task Force developed a model that:

  1. Identifies the source and amount of graduate tuition remission funds available.
  2. Articulates the criteria for awarding of graduate tuition remissions and the level or levels of tuition remission that may be made available to individual students. This includes policies regarding non-resident graduate tuition differential waivers and partial versus full tuition remissions.
  3. Contains principles for allocation of the funds to the colleges and other eligible units that can be used for the initial distribution and future adjustments. The model is responsive to changes in graduate student mix within the university and both increases and decreases in available funds.
  4. Articulates the accounting procedures to track the funds within the University and the individual colleges and other eligible units.

Considerations

A number of considerations were taken into account in establishing the OSU Graduate Assistant Tuition Remission Model.

  1. Graduate assistant tuition remissions are used as part of financial packages to recruit and retain academically superior graduate students to OSU.
  2. Graduate student enrollment is dependent on financial support including graduate assistantships and associated tuition remission. The exact nature of this relationship is unknown, but appears to vary according to discipline and/or degree level. For example, at OSU 80% of graduate students in the College of Agricultural Sciences are supported by graduate assistantships plus tuition remission compared to only about 20% in the College of Business. Of graduate applicants fully admitted to OSU for fall, 1999, but who chose to attend graduate school elsewhere, 62% reported that the offer of a graduate assistantship was very influential in their initial consideration to apply to OSU, and 72% who reported that it was very influential in their final decision to attend their chosen university. Fifty percent of a random sample of new graduate students who initially enrolled at OSU fall term, 1999, indicated that the offer of a graduate assistantship was very influential in their initial consideration to apply to OSU and 56% reported that it was very influential in their final decision to attend OSU.
  3. The differential between resident and non-resident graduate tuition rates should be forgiven for graduate assistants on OSU general funds and other sources of to ensure continued recruitment on a national and international basis.
  4. Provision should be made for the handling of cost of sharing tuition remission and non-resident tuition differential waivers associated with assistantships funded by some types of grants and contracts and other funding sources.
  5. The use of funds allocated for tuition remission should be monitored relative to ongoing graduate student enrollment and adjustments should be made accordingly.
  6. The future need for graduate tuition remission should be anticipated by providing for both growth and inflation.

Previous Investment

The graduate program at OSU is a very important part of OSU's financial health. Graduate enrollment generates an important part of the state allocation to OSU, totaling an amount estimated at more than $15,000,000 in 1998-99 (Table 1a). Tuition for graduate students paid directly to OSU from grants and contracts, state auxiliaries, and by students themselves provided almost $7,500,000 in income (Table 1a).

OSU has also made a substantial investment in graduate programs, recognizing that graduate assistants provide essential support for teaching and research programs and for support services. This institutional investment takes several forms. The largest is the waiver of the non-resident tuition differential waivers. All students on graduate assistantships are charged resident tuition regardless of the source of funds or the student's actual residency status. In 1998-99, the foregone revenue was $4,406,124 (i.e. these revenues are foregone under the assumption that all of these students would have paid the full tuition). OSU has chosen to waive the non-resident tuition differential because graduate education and recruitment are international endeavors.

Graduate tuition remissions funded by OSU general funds represented approximately 604 tuition FTE¹ (annualized) at a cost of $3,231,616 (Table 1b). Tuition FTE is derived by dividing the General Fund expenditure ($3,231,616) by the cost of resident graduate instructional fees for 3 terms (i.e. $5352 for 1998-99). These dollars represent revenue foregone that would have otherwise been available to the General Fund assuming the same graduate enrollment would have been achieved in the absence of the tuition remission. The University also committed $4,748,489 in stipends from the general fund to support those students. Tuition scholarships of $547,329 were provided through the Laurels Scholarship Program in the Graduate School.

Finally, OSU provided cost sharing of $975,723 in graduate tuition on grants and contracts from agencies which do not pay tuition.

The total investment in graduate student tuition remission paid by the University, graduate stipends paid by the University, and non-resident tuition differential waivers at OSU for 1998-99 was $14,636,185.

The income and cost data presented in Tables 1a and 1b indicate the financial effectiveness of continuing the graduate tuition remission and waiver program at OSU. Specifically, total estimated income generated by 1998-99 graduate student enrollment was $22,692,696. With associated costs of $14,636,185, about $8,000,000 is available for support of graduate faculty, other graduate program support, and other institutional operations. In addition, the students supported by general funds are performing essential work for the university in teaching, research, and support functions. The practical experience gained by the graduate students is an important part of their preparation for successful careers in their fields.

OSU Graduate Tuition Remission Allocation Model

  1. All graduate students with superior records in their undergraduate and/or graduate work and who meet the following criteria are eligible to hold a graduate assistant appointment (see page 21, Graduate Catalog 1999-2000):
    • Be a regularly admitted, provisionally admitted, or tentatively admitted graduate student at Oregon State University.
    • Be enrolled as a full-time graduate student at Oregon State University, completing a minimum of 12 credits of state-supported instruction each term.
    • Be making satisfactory progress toward an advanced degree.
  2. Eligible graduate students (see item #1 above) may hold one of three types of appointments:
    1. Graduate Teaching Assistants-provide instructional support through leading lecture, lab, or recitation sections; grading; preparation of materials; or other activities directly related to the educational mission of the unit.
    2. Graduate Research Assistants-provide support in field, laboratory, or research work appropriate to the discipline, in support of the unit's mission;
    3. Graduate Fellows-awarded tuition or other scholarship funds for which specific duties or work effort are not required
    Units are responsible for appointing Graduate Assistants appropriately as a condition of continued authority to award tuition remissions and stipends.
  3. University units eligible to award tuition remissions to graduate assistants include all academic Colleges including the Graduate School and interdisciplinary degree programs reporting to the Dean of the Graduate School.
  4. University units eligible to fund graduate assistant stipends include all academic Colleges including the Graduate School, interdisciplinary degree programs reporting to the Dean of the Graduate School, research centers and institutes reporting to the Vice Provost for Research, and administrative and student support units. However, research centers and institutes reporting to the Vice Provost for Research and administrative and student support units may only award tuition remissions for graduate assistants indirectly by supplying the stipend dollars to a unit eligible to award tuition remissions as specified in item #3 above. The eligible unit (see item #3 above) in turn will be responsible for recruiting the student and making the award offer. An alternate option for research centers, institutes, administrative units, and student support units would be to hire graduate students directly on student wages.
  5. The OSU Graduate Tuition Remission Model will be phased in over a two year period. For 2000-01, Graduate Teaching Assistants or Graduate Research Assistants (see #1 above for eligibility criteria) with appointments of at least 0.20 FTE per term with the stipend paid by an eligible university unit (see #3 above) from OSU general funds will receive tuition remission from the University assessed at the resident rate. For 2001-02, the minimum FTE will be increased to 0.25.²
  6. Graduate Fellows (see #1 for eligibility criteria) whose stipends are paid by an eligible university unit (see #3 & 4 above) via approved OSU Foundation funds dedicated to graduate fellowships and which provide a stipend value equivalent to that provided by at least a 0.49 FTE graduate assistantship as specified by the minimum recommended stipend guidelines published annually by the Graduate School may receive a tuition remission upon the recommendation of the unit and the approval of the Graduate School.
  7. Graduate Fellows (or Trainees) whose stipends are paid by an eligible university unit (see #3 & 4 above) or directly by the institution via competitive training grants and/or portable external fellowships (e.g. NSF Graduate Research Fellowship) in which cost of education allowances fall short of meeting the tuition needs of fellows or trainees, and whose stipends provide a stipend value equivalent to that provided by at least a 0.49 FTE graduate assistantship as specified by the minimum recommended stipend guidelines published annually by the Graduate School, may receive a tuition offset not to exceed the amount of the cost of education allowance shortfall upon the recommendation of the unit and the approval of the Graduate School. Full graduate tuition may be cost shared for some training grants or fellowships, regardless of the education allowance, if such cost sharing has prior approval of the Graduate School and the Research Office.
  8. Graduate Teaching Assistants or Graduate Research Assistants (see #1 for eligibility criteria) holding an appointment of at least 0.20 FTE per term in 2000-01 and 0.25 FTE in 2001-02² with the stipend paid from grant or contract funds where the funding agency does not pay tuition as determined by agency policy and enforced for all awards made by the funding agency may receive a graduate tuition remission assessed at the resident rate if cost sharing of the tuition has received prior approval.
  9. Graduate students, including international students, who are not supported by any other sources may be awarded a Laurels Scholarship for full or partial tuition remission or full or partial non-resident differential tuition waiver upon recommendation of the unit and with the approval of the Graduate Dean. Laurels Scholarships will be allocated by the Graduate School on an annual basis. Laurels Scholarships shall be limited to an amount not to exceed 10% of the total graduate tuition remission pool in a given year. The goal for use of these funds is that at least half of the funds will be allocated during the graduate student recruiting phase and committed by April 15 each year.
  10. The Graduate School will retain a tuition remission and waiver fund, the amount not to exceed 5% of the total allocation to tuition remission and waivers. The Graduate Dean will have authority to award tuition remissions to eligible students (see #1 above) who do not fall into the categories provided by items #5 through #9 above if doing so meets other institutional interests in diversity, enrollment goals, faculty productivity, student retention, or student success. The number of such discretionary awards normally will be no greater than 5% of the total full time graduate student enrollment.

Tuition Remission Polices

  1. Policies for and allocation of tuition remission for graduate assistants will be the responsibility of the Graduate School. These policies will be reviewed annually in consultation with the Provost and Executive Vice President, the Vice President for Finance and Administration, Deans, Directors, and others with direct responsibility for graduate assistants.
  2. The OSU Graduate Tuition Remission Allocation Model takes effect as of fall term, 2000, and pertains to the three academic terms and summer session.
  3. Initial authorization of tuition remission commitments from general funds will be based on a combination of the following estimates:
    • Estimates of current fiscal year commitments to general fund tuition remissions in each unit, as of February 1 each year.
    • Estimates of cost share commitments to graduate tuition from general funds in each unit as of February 1.
    • Estimates of growth in general fund tuition remissions based on known increases in stipend budgets to provide instructional and research support for the following fiscal year.
    This initial allocation will be modified at the closing of each fiscal year, such that the net expense in each unit is zero, and the net expense to the Vice President for Finance and Administration's office for tuition remissions paid from the general fund is zero.
  4. Tuition remissions for all eligible students, including graduate assistants on appointments of at least a 0.20 FTE in 2000-01 and 0.25 FTE in 2001-02 from any source, will be assessed at resident rates.²
  5. For graduate assistants whose stipends are paid from more than one grant or fund type, the tuition remission or the tuition charged to each funding source/type will be calculated in proportion to the stipend amount paid from each source. If a grant is required to cost share tuition, only the pro-rata share will be charged, consistent with OMB Circular A-21.
  6. With the exception of item #4 above, tuition remission is provided only in full amount to students who meet the eligibility criteria described elsewhere in this document. Remission is provided on a per-term basis so support for part of an academic year is possible.
  7. OSU general fund tuition remission will be allocated to units in dollars, not "slots." Tuition remission dollars will be earmarked for this specific expense category and cannot be transferred to any other part of a unit's budget.
  8. In February of each year, the Graduate School will be responsible for providing an annual estimate of the tuition remissions to be awarded in the following fiscal year based on the criteria in #1 above. This estimate will provide useful guidelines for graduate recruiting.
  9. The Graduate School will provide an annual report on the use and distribution of tuition remission.
  10. Non-resident tuition differential waivers associated with grants and contracts and other sources of funds are not capped.

Accounting and Management Procedures

  1. Tuition remission will be treated as a form of financial support to graduate assistants.
  2. Units will be provided with an initial budget allocation for tuition remissions. Funds will be allocated in this way for planning purposes and to provide the ability to track tuition remission investments and assess the return on investment in regard to the guiding principles specified in this document.
  3. Funds from the tuition remission allocation may not be used for any purpose other than paying for tuition remission.
  4. Units will be charged directly for tuition remission once each term.
  5. At the close of the fiscal year, any unused tuition remission allocations will be returned to the Vice President for Finance and Administration. Funds will be distributed to those units with negative balances in their tuition remission accounts. The result of each of these is that tuition remission accounts will be funded at exactly the amount needed for the fiscal year.

¹ One full tuition FTE is derived by dividing direct tuition expense by the total cost of resident graduate instructional fees for 3 terms (e.g. for 1998-99 $5352 is 1.00 tuition FTE). That is, a tuition FTE does NOT represent an individual student; therefore, these figures do not reconcile with headcount.

² Note that the action to increase minimum FTE to .25 FTE has been deferred.