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To date, we have been able to support all of our graduate students financially throughout their time here. Most of our students are NMSU graduate assistants, where the assistantships can either be teaching assistantships (funded by the state) or research assistantships (funded by grants). In addition, some students obtain external fellowships that provide financial support.

Graduate Assistantships

NMSU graduate assistantships can be either for teaching (TA) or research (RA). The NMSU graduate assistantships formally cover 20 hours of work per week during the academic year. During the summer, when students are supported as RAs, there is some flexibility in the amount of pay that can be offered (20-40 hours per week). Note, however, that the primary requirement is getting work done, not counting hours. In fact, the summer hiring level more often varies because of grant funding availability than because of variations in the expected amount of work. If you want to succeed in the field, you will need to be working full-time, and likely more!

It is more common for first and second year students to be supported as TAs, with more senior students supported as RAs, but exceptions to this certainly occur frequently depending on a number of different circumstances, including faculty funding levels, admissions offers, etc. While it may not seem fair to have different students at the same level with different types of support, funding issues are a very real part of academic life, and, as you will subsequently learn, we all have to work within the framework of available resources, and this leads to different conditions for different people.

Teaching assistantships

If you are working as a teaching assistant, the department head will assign TAs to different faculty/class sections based on peoples' schedules, and when possible, faculty and student preferences. Feel free to make these known. Because of different teaching styles and course requirements, there is no guarantee that workload will be equal for all TAs, which is too bad, but will occasionally occur. If there seems to be a serious discrepancy, you should discuss it with the faculty member and/or the Department Head.

As noted above, there is a significant responsibility associated with being a TA, which includes both teaching and grading components. If you cannot meet these responsibilities, the Department may decide that it cannot offer you a TA position in subsequent semesters, which can have significant implications for financial support.

Research assistantships

RA support generally comes from faculty research grants. These are written by faculty to funding agencies and, in general, are awarded with specific expectations of work that will be accomplished with the funding. It is extremely important for students to take their responsibilities as grant-funded RAs seriously. Not only are you being supported by public funds to accomplish research, but the ability of faculty to continue to be successful in obtaining future grants likely depends strongly on their ability to demonstrate success, as measured by concrete deliverables like papers, on previous grants.

You are encouraged to discuss research support with various faculty members at any time. Since research support is the only option during the summer, you will want to make sure to line up a source of support for summer well before summer comes around, i.e., you should consider and discuss this early in the spring semester.

It is your responsibility to plan, in collaboration with your research supervisor, how your dissertation research will be funded. The best approach is to identify, within your first few years at NMSU, a faculty member with grant support performing research in an area of interest to you. Begin working on a project with this faculty member (via ASTR 598 or 600) and demonstrate your abilities to him/her. Under the best circumstances, a dissertation proposal will emerge from this research and the faculty member will offer you an RA. Thus, it is important to identify a project which is of common interest to you and a professor, and that project should be supported by a grant.

Other funding opportunities

Aside from faculty research grants, there are opportunities for students to apply for independent funding, as well as some funding fellowship opportunities that the Department can apply for. Students are strongly encouraged to be aware of, and apply for, independent funding opportunties. Some of these include NSF graduate research fellowships, NASA student fellowships (e.g., NESSF, ASTAR), NM Space Grant Consortium opportunities, as well as others.

Independent funding frees you from working on a subject that is covered by a faculty research grant, and helps out the entire department by making TA and RA funds available for other students.

The Department attempts to take advantage of all award opportunities it is aware of for eligible students. Some of these awards require that a FAFSA financial aid document be completed and available to the award-providing office. Thus, the Department encourages all students to complete and submit a FAFSA document at the start of each calendar year.


So long as you are employed as a graduate assistant, you are eligible for NMSU in-state tuition. However, there have been some issues in the past with getting in-state tuition if you are on an external fellowship. Because of this, you should establish and apply for NM residency during your first year here. Instructions for how to do so can be found at

Benefits and policy

As an NMSU employee, you may need to be aware of official NMSU policy on a variety of subjects. Information on current NMSU policy can be found at

NMSU, like many other institutions, now requires all employees to participate in annual online compliance trainings. We request that you complete these in a timely manner after being notified.

Purchases and travel

There may be circumstances where you will want to be reimbursed for expenses, either for work-related purchases or work-related travel. You should definitely check with whoever will be funding these purchases (your advisor or the Department Head) before making the expenditure. Assuming the expenses has been approved, you need to submit receipts to Ofelia so that she can process a reimbursement.

If you work with Ofelia in advance, it is possible to purchase plane tickets directly without having to lay out your own money in advance. Note that, for reimbursement, receipts are required for meeting registration, plane tickets, hotel, etc.

When possible, expenses should be charged to the department credit card from which they can then be covered by charging an appropriate internal account, i.e. without requiring reimbursement at all. Ofelia and Lorenza can help with credit card purchases. The department credit card cannot be used to purchase airline tickets.

Note that international travel requires pre-approval, see

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Jon Holtzman 2018-05-02