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GSAD-907

Graduate Fellows and Graduate Trainees (formerly PR03)

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Purpose

To define the Graduate School’s policy for graduate fellowships and graduate traineeships.

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Scope

All students holding graduate fellowships or graduate traineeships, whether appointed by the University or received directly from an external source.

Graduate fellowships are prestigious awards defined as complete support packages that allow graduate fellows to pursue their own research, scholarship, or creative accomplishments (typically under the direction of one or more faculty mentors), as well as professional development opportunities. These awards facilitate degree completion and best position students to achieve their career goals. Students with graduate fellowships do not have assigned service activities or responsibilities such as teaching or supporting the research of faculty projects, but may participate in teaching or research activities as a component of their degree requirements and/or professional development as allowable based on specific fellowship guidelines.

Graduate fellowships may derive from internal, University-based funds or from external sources. These two types of funding are distinct and have different implications for recipients of the awards. Internal University-based fellowships may have numerous budgetary sources, including endowments derived from philanthropy.

Of note, external fellowships do not always provide a competitive stipend, tuition remission, and/or coverage of the University portion of the premium for student health insurance. In most cases, the Graduate School expects that the graduate program will seek to supplement such fellowships so that students and the University derive the most benefit from such awards.

Traineeships are a type of fellowship that provides structured, specialized training to graduate students, known formally as “trainees.” Traineeships provide a vital pipeline for development of future researchers with specialized, interdisciplinary skill sets. Often, external funding agencies provide training grant funding to the institution to build expertise in unique research areas that do not fall into a single discipline, thus enabling increased researcher capacity as well as scientific progress and research advances in critical but underserved and/or underfunded specialties.

Historically at Penn State many graduate-level financial awards were referred to as “fellowships,” even though the majority of these awards were what policy FN15 now defines as “graduate scholarships.” The goals of these “fellowships” included providing: i) applicants an additional incentive to attend Penn State; ii) students a reward for merit; iii) colleges/departments/programs with additional funding flexibility; or iv) a higher financial support package for a student for a variety of reasons. These limited awards were not intended to support a student’s cost-of-attendance in full. These historical awards, which may still be called “fellowships” but are awarded as scholarships, are not covered by this policy.

Graduate fellows/trainees are sometimes referred to as “predoctoral fellows/trainees” (in part to distinguish them from postdoctoral fellows, scholars and trainees). Although a graduate fellowship/traineeship is most often an award held by a research doctorate (Ph.D.) student, this policy does not restrict the degree under the Graduate School that a graduate fellow/trainee may pursue (which may include the research doctorate or research masters’ degrees, i.e., the Ph.D. or M.S./M.A., respectively; or professional doctoral or masters’ degrees under the Graduate School).

Graduate Fellowships
Graduate Fellowships (also referred to as “fellowships” in Graduate School documents) are highly prestigious financial support packages that typically include a stipend, tuition grant-in aid (GIA), and a subsidy for the Penn State Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) premium or an external health insurance plan as provided by an external funding agency. Fellowships may be derived from University funds, external funds or a combination. Graduate fellowship recipients do not have assigned service activities or responsibilities such as teaching or supporting the research of faculty projects, but may participate in teaching or research activities as a component of their degree requirements and/or professional development.
Graduate Fellow
Graduate Fellow (also referred to as “fellow” in Graduate School documents) is a graduate student pursuing a degree under the Graduate School and appointed on a fellowship.
Graduate Traineeships
Graduate Traineeships (also referred to as “traineeships” in Graduate School documents) are funded by training grants financially supported by agencies outside the University. Traineeships are intended to support specific student learning experiences in core curricular areas, professional development activities and/or research methodologies. Institutional training grant awards support selected students with packages that typically include a stipend, tuition subsidy, and a subsidy for the Penn State Student Health Insurance Plan premium.
Graduate Trainee
Graduate Trainee (also referred to as “trainee” in Graduate School documents) is a graduate student pursuing a degree under the Graduate School and appointed on a traineeship.
Full Support Package
A full support package provides the minimum University stipend level as prescribed in policy GSAD-901 Graduate Assistants, tuition grant-in-aid at no less than the graduate assistantship/fellowship rate, and subsidy of the premium for the Penn State Student Health Insurance Plan, outlined under the Insurance Premium Subsidies section of the Student Affairs website, or a subsidy for an external health insurance plan as provided by an external funding agency.
Full-Time Student
A full-time student is defined by policy GCAC-501 Credit Load, which provides the minimum and maximum credit load per semester for a student to be completing full-time academic work in a graduate program.

Policy Statement

  1. General Provisions. Fellowships1 and traineeships provide complete support packages for full-time degree-seeking students enrolled in The Graduate School. This includes:
    1. Stipend support:
      1. Fellowships and traineeships derived from internal funds must provide stipend support at a level equal to or higher than the minimum University stipend level.
      2. Fellowships and traineeships financially supported from external sources and appointed through the University that do not meet the minimum stipend level should be supplemented to provide stipend support at equal to or higher than the minimum University stipend level.
      3. Fellowships and traineeships financially supported from external sources and not appointed through the University may or may not provide stipend support at a level equal to or higher than the minimum University stipend level. In such cases, the student’s academic unit should seek to provide additional support to supplement the stipend so it will be equivalent to the minimum University stipend level.
    2. Tuition at the graduate assistantship/fellowship or dissertation fee rate, as appropriate, based on fellow’s registration status.
      1. Fellowships and traineeships derived from internal funds must provide full tuition coverage at the appropriate level.
      2. Fellowships and traineeships financially supported from external sources and appointed through the University may or may not provide full tuition coverage. For fellowships and traineeships where full tuition coverage is not provided by the external funding agency, the appointing unit must identify funds to pay the full tuition at the appropriate rate (see below).
      3. Fellowships and traineeships financially supported from external sources and not appointed through the University may or may not provide full tuition at the appropriate rate. In such cases, the student’s academic unit should seek to provide full tuition at the appropriate rate in compliance with University policies and procedures.
    3. Penn State Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) or external health insurance plan premium subsidy:
      1. Fellowships and traineeships derived from internal funds must provide a subsidy for the University portion of the SHIP premium (see below).
      2. Fellowships and traineeships financially supported from external sources and appointed through the University may or may not provide coverage of the University’s portion of the SHIP premium. For fellowships and traineeships where the University’s portion of the SHIP premium is not fully covered, and, if applicable, an external health insurance plan provided by the external source is not adequate, the appointing unit must identify funds to pay the SHIP premium (see below).
      3. Fellowships and traineeships financially supported from external sources and not appointed through the University may or may not provide funds or allowance for coverage of health insurance. In cases where funds or allowance for coverage of health insurance is not provided by the outside agency, the student’s academic unit should seek to provide a subsidy commensurate with the University’s portion of the SHIP premium for internally funded fellows.
  2. Fellowships Derived from Internal Funds. Graduate students appointed to fellowships derived from internal funds must be enrolled full-time. A graduate fellow/trainee whose semester credit load (or, in the case of summer enrollment, credit load for both summer sessions) meets or exceeds 9 credits is considered by the Graduate School to be engaged in full-time academic work for that semester or summer.
  3. Responsibilities While a Trainee or Fellow. Fellows/trainees appointed through the University may not be appointed as graduate assistants, accept employment, or render any service to the University during the period of their fellowship/traineeship, except with special permission for training purposes.
    1. Fellows/trainees appointed through the University may accept employment/service responsibilities that will further their academic and scholarly training with prior approval from the appointing unit, the fellow/trainees’ graduate program head, and (if applicable) the external funding agency.
  4. GA / Fellowship Tuition Rate. Fellowships/traineeships that provide full support packages, whether appointed through the University or provided directly to the student from an external source, may be charged the approved graduate assistant/fellow tuition rate or dissertation fee rate, as appropriate, based on the recipient’s registration status.
  5. Use of Penn State General Funds for Fellows and Trainees Appointed Through the University. Units may use their General Funds to support stipend, tuition and fees of fellows or trainees appointed through the University under the following conditions:
    1. Grant-in-Aid General Funds requiring only approval of the budget area of the unit providing the funding (if funds are available):
      1. applicable for coverage of tuition for Distinguished Graduate Fellowships.
      2. applicable for coverage of tuition for endowed fellowships in accordance with the minimum following guidelines:
        1. The award is intended to provide a full support package of tuition, stipend, and the University’s portion of the Penn State SHIP premium;
        2. Stipend support from the endowment is at a level equal to or higher than the minimum University stipend level.
    2. Grant-in-Aid General Funds requiring approval by the Graduate School (if unit funds are available):
      1. applicable to coverage of tuition for externally-awarded fellowship/traineeships in accordance with the following minimum conditions:
        1. The award is intended to provide a full support package of tuition, stipend, and the University’s portion of the Penn State SHIP premium;
        2. Stipend support from the external agency is at a level equal to or higher than the minimum University stipend level.
    3. Use of General Funds other than Grant-in-Aid General Funds:
      1. General Funds may not be used to fund tuition or stipend for trainees and fellows unless written exception is obtained from the Graduate School’s Office of Graduate Fellowships and Awards Administration and the Office of the Corporate Controller.
  6. Use of Penn State General Funds for Fellows and Trainees Not Appointed Through the University. General Funds and Grant-in-Aid General Funds may not be used to fund fellowship/traineeship tuition or fees for fellowships/traineeships that are not appointed through the University.
    Exception: Grant-in-Aid General Funds may be used for tuition for Fulbright Fellows at any stipend funding level, whether or not they are appointed through the University, with the approval of the Graduate School.
  7. The Penn State Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) Benefit
    1. For all fellows/trainees appointed through the University, the University provides a Penn State SHIP premium subsidy:
      1. The University or the external sponsor/agency will pay a subsidy as a percentage of the annual premium for the Penn State Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP); the amount of the subsidy each year is specified under the Insurance Premium Subsidies section of the Student Affairs website.
      2. Some external sponsors/agencies pay 100 percent of the annual SHIP premium for fellows/trainees, based on the sponsor’s funding guidelines.
    2. For all fellows/trainees not appointed through the University, the graduate degree program should seek to provide the SHIP premium subsidy for the student (see #1.c.iii, above).
    3. The University will not supplement, nor will an automatic stipend deduction be made for health insurance policies other than the Penn State SHIP.
    4. For additional details and links to relevant information related to student health insurance, see the following: Resources about Graduate Assistant, Fellow, and Trainee Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP), Dental, and Vision Insurance Plans – Guidelines.
  8. Responsibility for Student Appointments
    1. For those students appointed through the University as fellows or trainees, the responsibility for submission of fellowship/traineeship appointments rests with their graduate programs. Graduate program staff should ensure all applicable eligibility requirements for the proposed appointments are met.
      1. In instances when fellowship/traineeship funding is managed outside the home graduate program, the funding unit may process the appointment at their discretion, but the graduate program must confirm recipients’ academic requirements for holding the fellowship/traineeship appointment are met. Graduate programs, Financial Offices of the colleges/units, and funding units should work together to facilitate the appointments. This is particularly important for correct posting of pay and effort/labor distribution, and to avoid duplicate appointment entry.
    2. The unit that enters a graduate student’s fellowship/traineeship appointment must terminate it in compliance with HR Shared Services’ procedures and processes.

1Prior to 2014, as outlined in policy FN15, some endowed fellowships at Penn State did not meet this standard. Those pre-existing fellowships are excluded from this policy.

Further Information

General Fund Support and Grant in Aid Funding for Graduate Fellowships

As appropriate, fellows and trainees follow policy GSAD-906 Graduate Student Leave of Absence and guidelines for Management of Graduate Assistantships, Fellowships, and Traineeships for Graduate Students with an Approved Leave of Absence.

FN15 Establishing or Accepting Funds For Endowed or Named Annually Funded Accounts

Insurance Premium Subsidies section of the Student Affairs website about the University’s portion of the SHIP premium and other important information, particularly for external fellows seeking to purchase insurance.

Policy Steward: Vice Provost for Graduate Education
Subject Matter Expert: Director of the Office of Graduate Fellowships and Awards Administration, 814-865-2514, gsfellowships@psu.edu

Revision History

Approved by Regina Vasilatos-Younken, Vice Provost for Graduate Education and Dean of The Graduate School, February 3, 2021. Effective immediately.

Approved in consultation with:

  • Sue Wiedemer, Interim Associate Vice President for Finance and Corporate Controller, and reporting offices deemed appropriate, including:
    • Andrew Reisinger, Budget Director, University Budget Office
    • Ray Burke, Payroll Manager
    • Carolyn Saona, University Bursar, including review by Valerie Brighton, University Fee Assessor and Niharika Sharma, Director of Student Financial Services
    • Jennifer Rowles, Cost Analysis Manager
  • Karen Kline, Manager, Student Insurance, University Health Services
  • February 3, 2021 – Minor editorial revision to Policy Statement #2, Fellowships Derived from Internal Funds.
  • February 10, 2020 – Extensive revisions including policy updates and separation of procedures document. Change from IBIS to WorkDay terminology. Change of policy stewardship from Payroll (PR03) to Graduate School (GSAD 907) and contact information. Removal of term “Scholars” (a holdover from when this policy included postdoctoral scholars).
  • March 25, 2014 – Major changes have been made throughout the entire policy which more clearly reflect current operations pertaining to the support and payment of fellows and scholars.
  • October 18, 2013 – Editorial changes. Addition of policy steward information, in the event that there are questions or requests for changes to the policy.
  • September 19, 2011 – Editorial changes made to the HEALTH INSURANCE BENEFITS section, updated to reflect current operations.
  • June 14, 2006 – Revision History added.
  • August 19, 2005 – Editorial changes to eliminate "General Forms Usage Guide" references and to correct links.
  • September 4, 1995 – Revisions to "Purpose," "Pay Date" sections. Added "Health Insurance Benefits" section.
  • April 15, 1994 – Revisions to the "Initial Pay Period" for situations where the initial payment is missed.
  • December 10, 1993 – "Notes" added (1) That since no services are required of a fellow, they are paid on the accounts payable system; (2) Scholars are appointed as a Fixed Term II and paid on the payroll system creation of "Initial Pay Period."
  • February 3, 1993 – IBIS terminology added. Revised "Rates charged to Funding Sources" section, to clarify that the use of general funds is not permitted unless a written exception is obtained from the Corporate Controller.
  • September 30, 1992 – Revised old terms to IBIS semantics, and added the comment “General Funds may not be used to fund fellows or scholars.”
  • May 10, 1988 – Commonwealth Campus reference changed to “Locations other than University Park.”
  • August 4, 1983 – Addition of “Rates to Charge Funding” section, specifying how tuition and related fees are charged for fellowships.
  • November 23, 1973 – Revisions to “Pay Dates” and Payroll Taxes" sections.
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