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Financial Assistance

Important Reminder

Graduate students are paid retroactively on the first of each month. They do not receive their first paycheck for Fall quarter employment until November 1st. Students must plan carefully to ensure not only that they can afford fees, tuition, and books for the Fall quarter but also that they can cover living expenses through September and October.

Financial Support

The department is committed to supporting all eligible incoming students (including international students) with full financial aid for at least five years (15 quarters). The financial support provided to graduate students is one of the key advantages of this program over similar programs across the country. By guaranteeing funding for almost the entire doctoral program, the department allows students to focus exclusively on their intellectual and professional development. The department's noncompetitive funding system encourages students to view academic life as a collaborative effort in which sharing and communicating ideas is essential to fruitful development. Below is a listing of the primary types of departmental financial assistance. Please see Requirements for further information.

Teaching Assistantships

Doctoral students are funded by a combination of fellowships and assistantships. During the first year of the program, the department requires most incoming students to work as Teaching Assistants (TA) at 25% effort. This enables the department to pay tuition and fees, including non-resident supplemental tuition, for doctoral students.

After the first year, most students will be working as TAs at 50% effort. Also after the first year, students who are US citizens or permanent residents should file for California residency so that they do not get charged the non-resident supplemental tuition. For international students, the department will pay the non-resident supplemental tuition until the end of the student's third year, after which they are expected to advance to candidacy. Advancement to candidacy at the end of the third year will remove non-resident supplemental tuition for 9 consecutive quarters.

If they remain in good academic standing, students are guaranteed grading or teaching jobs during their third through fifth years. A few students are often able to teach their own courses as Associates-In during their later years in the program.

Once students use all 15 quarters of guaranteed department funding, they often are successful in applying for and obtaining teaching assistantships outside the department. In the last few years, the department has had increased undergraduate enrollment and has had TA positions for students who are beyond their fifth years. 

For the most current TA pay rates, please refer to the Graduate Division's employment website.

Graduate Student Researchers

Some students are hired as Graduate Student Researchers (GSR). GSR positions are typically obtained through a student's advisor or through professors with whom they have worked closely. Students are typically asked on an individual basis if they would be interested in becoming involved in particular projects. Some GSR positions count as department funding whereas others are considered outside funding. How the GSR position is categorized will depend on the specific nature of the grant. GSR positions can provide support for a single quarter, a single year, or several years, depending on the nature of the grant. If the GSR position is funded by the department, then each quarter it is offered is counted as a quarter of department support. GSR positions offer excellent opportunities to become acquainted with the research process, to learn about both the frustration and satisfaction involved in research, and to strengthen ties with faculty. Cultivating positive academic relationships with faculty is perhaps the best way to increase one's chances of receiving this type of assistance.


A number of students enter the program with departmental and non-departmental fellowships. Many of these fellowships cover tuition and living expenses, or provide a stipend, thereby freeing students from some to all grading or teaching responsibilities. While many fellowships provide support for several years, others cover only the first year. Once a student's fellowship ends, they may receive departmental funding until the end of their Support Time Limit (SUTL) which is set at the end of a student's seventh year in the program.

Students are highly encouraged to seek fellowship assistance at some point in their graduate career. From a strategic perspective, fellowship assistance obtained as students enter the program and as they begin their prospectus can be particularly valuable. Many advanced graduate students choose to obtain funding to conduct dissertation research. Many students seeking outside assistance allocate time during the fall quarter of their third and fourth year to write grant proposals. Students have been extremely successful in competitions for the most prestigious awards. Graduate students have conducted dissertation research with fellowships from the Brookings Institution, the Center for Iberian and Latin American Studies, the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies, the Fulbright Scholar Program, the Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, the National Science Foundation, and the Social Science Research Council. Students who are unable to obtain outside support for dissertation research may, depending on available resources, receive additional years of support as a TA.

Information on fellowships can be sent out through the Poligrad listserv, found in university libraries, or external aggregation websites. The types of fellowships available and the qualifications required to receive fellowships varies. Students are highly encouraged to apply for a number of different fellowships since the acceptance rate tends to be quite low.

Students enhance their chances of receiving fellowships by preparing impressive proposals. The proposal itself tends to weigh far more heavily in acceptance committee's decisions than do school names, good grades, or laudatory recommendations from renowned faculty. Students should identify the priorities of the sponsoring institution and should tailor their proposals to address these priorities. Additionally, students should devote considerable attention to presenting their basic question and to designing their research. Students should clearly identify their question, demonstrate sufficient knowledge of the literature in this area, and convince their readers that their question has not already been answered and is worth answering. While a brief literature should be included to establish the importance of a student's question, it should be brief and should not be organized as a separate section. The key feature that tends to distinguish students is their research design. In this part of the proposal, students should not focus on particular methodological approaches or data-gathering procedures. Instead, students should focus on explaining how they intend to use potential data to answer their question. For instance, students could present several testable hypotheses and could discuss how they will use data to confirm or reject them. Students interested in applying for fellowships are encouraged to attend a grant proposal writing seminar that lasts a couple of hours and is typically offered at the beginning of each academic year.

Summer Financial Support

While department funding during the school year is automatic (given good academic standing) for students' first five years in the program, summer employment is not guaranteed and opportunities for employment are rather limited. Typically, the department hires some students as TAs or Associates-In for summer courses. Approximately one-third of the students in the department are hired as GSRs to work on summer projects with faculty members. Students typically obtain these positions by proactively seeking the assistance of their advisor or of other faculty members with whom they have good rapport. 

Other students attempt to find academic positions elsewhere on campus. Some students have worked for other Social Science departments as graders or TAs. Additionally, the English Language Program for the Extension School sometimes needs English teachers. 

Tax Issues

For tax questions, see our Tax FAQ page.

Triton Registration Installment Plan

For students who fail to obtain TA positions after their fifth year or are past their SUTL, the Triton Registration Installment Plan (TRIP) is designed to allow students an opportunity to pay their mandatory registration charges in three installments. The first third of their fee payment is due by the Registration Fee deadline and the remaining balance is paid in two installments spread throughout the quarter. There is a non-refundable charge of $40 for this program, which is due with the first installment. Any student who is in good financial and academic standing is eligible to apply for this assistance. Students can apply for TRIP through the Student Financial Services website.

Direct Deposit

Students are strongly recommended to enroll in Direct Deposit for both their stipend and their paycheck. The process to enroll in Direct Deposit for stipends and for paychecks are two different processes and both must be completed in order to receive both payments via Direct Deposit. To enroll in Direct Deposit for stipends, students should enroll through TritonLink (log-in required). To enroll in Direct Deposit for paychecks, students must wait until they have access to UCPath Online, and sign up following the steps outlined on the UCPath information website.

Fellowship Database

Current UCSD Political Science Graduate Students may access the fellowship database online.