The application form is an application both for admission and for financial aid (in the form of assistantships and fellowships). Appropriate completion of the application will ensure consideration for these forms of financial assistance; there is no additional form to complete.
Most qualified graduate students receive financial aid. Most graduate students in the department hold teaching assistantships. (The availability of research assistantships varies from year to year.) Half-time (50%) teaching assistantships are standard and usually require teaching two sections of a basic speech course each semester. (This amounts to six hours of class time weekly, plus attending TA meetings, preparing classes, grading, and conferring as needed with students.) Assistants on standard half-time appointments usually enroll for 12 hours of graduate coursework.
For the 2012-2013 academic year, the stipend for a standard half-time, nine-month appointment was $15,791 plus a waiver of all tuition charges and a partial service fee waiver for a twelve-month period (the unwaived fees come to about $550 per term). For students who are not residents of Illinois, the value of a half-time assistantship plus the waiver of tuition and most fees for the academic year and summer session adds up to something more than $35,000 per year. Assistantships are awarded for service during the nine-month academic year (fall and spring semester). The summer tuition waiver covers the summer session immediately following the assistantship period and may not be transferred to the preceding summer.
Decisions about assistantships are made by the department's Committee on Graduate Admissions and Financial Aid. Most offers of assistantships for the fall semester will be extended by mid-March. If undergraduate enrollment exceeds expectations, a few assistantships may become available and be offered later.
Fellowship stipends are awarded in various amounts, typically in combination with assistantships. Several programs are targeted at students from groups typically underrepresented in graduate study. Fellowships carry waivers of all tuition charges and the service fee. Fellows must carry at least twelve hours of graduate coursework. Some fellows hold additional appointments as teaching or research assistants. Final decisions on fellowships are made by the Graduate College upon recommendations by the department.
Students who pass the University Civil Service examination can become part-time nonacademic employees and receive tuition and fee waivers as well as employee benefits; for information write to the Office of Personnel Services, 52 East Gregory, Champaign, IL 61820. Part-time appointments as student residence hall advisers provide room and board; write to the Housing Division, 200 Clark Hall, 1203 S. Fourth Street, Champaign, IL 61820. Graduate students may apply for loans and/or college work-study through the Financial Aid Office, 420 Student Services Building, 610 East John Street, Champaign, IL 61820.
Because the department's primary source of financial aid for graduate students is teaching assistantships, and because the number of assistantships available depends on factors outside the department's control (such as undergraduate enrollment), it is not possible (strictly speaking) to guarantee the availability of financial aid to students. Nevertheless, all fellows and teaching and research assistants who maintain normal progress toward the degree, whose academic records are good, and whose performance (of teaching or other required duties) meets the department's standards are virtually certain to find that continued financial assistance will be available in some form until degrees are earned or until the department's time limits for aid expire (whichever comes first). In recent years all fellows and assistants who have met these conditions and have sought financial aid from the department have had aid provided to them. The most common form of assistance is a half-time teaching assistantship.
A student seeking a master's degree can receive financial aid from the department for a maximum of two years. A student who received a master's degree elsewhere and is seeking a Ph.D. degree can receive financial aid from the department for a maximum of five years. A student who receives an M.A. degree from the department and continues in the Ph.D. program can receive financial aid from the department for a maximum of six years of study (total, for the M.A. and Ph.D. combined).
For Ph.D. students, receiving departmental aid for the last year of study (the fifth year for a student who received a master's degree elsewhere, the sixth year for a student who has received a master's degree from the department) is contingent upon the student's having passed the preliminary examination by the end of the preceding academic year. Financial aid for the last year of study is intended to support dissertation work.
Persons with nine-month teaching or research assistantships of from 25% to 67% time are automatically provided a summer waiver of tuition and the service fee. Other summer aid cannot be guaranteed, although some assistantships and fellowships are awarded each summer.