Skip to main content

About Graduate Funding

The Graduate School (TGS) provides doctoral degree-seeking students with the opportunity to receive funding in the form of fellowships, assistantships, and tuition scholarships. Made possible by general appropriations, endowments, and other outside sources, funding typically provides students with a  stipend  and a scholarship to pay for tuition costs. All awards made by TGS are based upon merit.

PhD student funding

PhD students are typically full-time students, and are fully-funded (stipend plus tuition scholarship). TGS expects PhD students will be financially supported through a combination of institutional and external funds for a minimum of five years. The support provided to PhD students includes year-round tuition, stipend, and fully subsidized health insurance.  

Graduate students are supported in a variety of ways. University fellowships are generally granted to entering doctoral students for part or all of their first year of study. TGS sets the base stipend level in all disciplines, and programs have latitude to set their stipend level above the base, typically based on market forces within that particular field. 

Graduate student funding is a shared responsibility. While financial commitments are made to students for a set number of years, it is important to understand that the overall graduate awards budget is dependent on a significant number of students obtaining external fellowships. Should a student be the recipient of an external grant or sponsorship, TGS requires these external resources be used in lieu of university funding. Depending on the program, an additional financial incentive may be provided to a student when they are awarded an external fellowship. We expect all students to make a good faith effort to obtain external support at some point during their funding period, and students should be encouraged to pursue these opportunities. 

Registration and funding guidelines 

  • All graduate students who are working towards degree completion must be registered every fall, winter, and spring quarter (and summer, if funded) until all degree/course requirements have been met. 
  • Students are expected to be properly registered by the end of the add/drop period for that quarter. 
  • Failure to register, or incorrect registration, could result in serious financial consequences for a student such as loss of funding (e.g., student loans, external awards, stipend, etc.), and personal liability for tuition and fee expenses. Students who are completely unenrolled as of the end of the add/drop period are at risk for being discontinued for non-enrollment.  
  • Enrollment changes after the end of the quarter are not permitted under any circumstances. 
Registration tips 
  • Students who are receiving funding (generally within the first five years of study) must be registered full-time, in either coursework and/or Research 590, or TGS 500. Students should check with their programs regarding any registration questions.  
  • Research 590 registration is used in the first two years to “fill in” credits to bring students up to full-time status (three-four units). For example, if a student is registered for a one unit course, they would register for two units of 590 to bring them up to full-time status. 
  • TGS 500 is typically used in years three through five while receiving funding (or beyond, if still funded) to maintain full-time registration. Some students may need to register for classes beyond year two, and may do so in combination with research 590 or TGS 500. 
  • TGS 512 is used to maintain full-time registration during quarters in which students are not receiving funding, until completion of the PhD degree. 
Implications of improper registration  
  • Students who are not registered at all, or are registered for less than three units, cannot receive funding. If a student fails to register full-time by the end of the add/drop period, their tuition scholarship, stipend, and health subsidy may be terminated, and they may be required to pay back their stipend. 
  • Students who register for TGS 500 when they are not receiving funding may be personally responsible for any tuition and fee charges. Improper registrations cannot be corrected once the quarter ends. 
  • Students who are registered for TGS 512 cannot receive funding. If a student fails to correctly register by the end of the add/drop period, their tuition scholarship, stipend, and health subsidy may be terminated, and they may be required to pay back their stipend. 
  • In certain exceptional cases, students may change their registration after the add/drop period by contacting Student Services. 

Master’s student funding

TGS does not provide funding for MA, MS, or MPH students. Some programs may provide a small amount of scholarship resources. Master’s students may also apply for student loans. MFA students do qualify for support from TGS, but they are the only exception. 

To discover what programs provide scholarship resources, contact your program directly. To learn more about the student loans that are available, please visit the Graduate Financial Aid website or visit the Federal Student Aid website.

Additional funding options

Students needing additional funds to pay for their education may wish to  apply for loans. Only U.S. citizens and permanent residents who are enrolled at least half-time are eligible for federal loans. There are alternative loan options for part-time students and for international students. Please contact  Graduate Financial Aid for more information. 

Permission to work

The policies related to making a request for permission to have additional remunerative work in addition to TGS fellowship/graduate assistantship funding can be found in our Permission to Work Policy on our Student Funding Policies page. For more information, please contact Graduate Student Funding at tgs-fa@northwestern.edu.

Eligibility for financial aid

Graduate students must remain in good academic standing and demonstrate satisfactory academic progress toward their respective degrees to be eligible for all forms of financial aid.  Learn more about this policy.

Regulations and guidelines for all recipients of University assistance

If you are a student in TGS receiving financial support administered by the University, please review the following policy guides: 

See our PhD Student Funding FAQs page for answers to common questions.

Additional University resources: