MIT makes financial support available to graduate students from a variety of sources and in several different forms—fellowships, scholarships, traineeships, teaching and research assistantships, on-campus employment, and federal loans. Many forms of support are granted solely on the basis of merit, while others are granted on the basis of financial need or a combination of merit and need.
Neither a department nor the Institute itself has the financial resources to provide support for all deserving students. Thus, it is important that prospective students explore all sources of aid available outside MIT to find means of financing their graduate programs.
Information on fellowships and other financial aid resources is available from individual departments and the manager of graduate fellowships in the Office of Graduate Education. Information on loans is available from Student Financial Services (SFS), Room 11-120.
Fellowships, Assistantships, and Taxes
At MIT, a fellowship award to a graduate student covers full or partial tuition, and may also provide a stipend to help defray living expenses. In the context of graduate study, a scholarship covers full or partial tuition only. Although most awards are made on the basis of academic merit, financial need is a factor in some instances.
Many individual, foundation, corporate, and government granting organizations provide external fellowship support for students. Students should apply directly to the granting organization for funding based on eligibility. Application deadlines typically fall between October 1 and May 1 of any given year.
Generous donors have provided MIT with permanent funds in support of fellowships, many of which have unique restrictions. MIT offices administer a number of these endowed internal fellowships through annual processes. Students who seek financial support from any of the fellowships administered by MIT should inform their academic department. The award process typically runs concurrently with the timeline for application for admission. For further information on guidelines, see Graduate Policies and Procedures. In accordance with a resolution of the US Council of Graduate Schools (endorsed by most graduate schools), a student has until April 15 to accept or decline an offer. If a student does not reply to an offer by this date, it may be cancelled.
More information on both external and internal fellowships, including links and tips for applying, is provided by the Office of Graduate Education.
Every student holding a fellowship for graduate study at the Institute must register as a full-time graduate student for the period of the award. Fellowship limitations apply to nonresident doctoral students; see "Terms of Status" for this category in Graduate Policies and Procedures. If a student withdraws from the Institute before tenure expires, the award must be relinquished, and the student will be required to refund any payment made in excess of tenure.
MIT employs about 1,300 graduate students each year as part-time or full-time teaching assistants to assist the faculty in grading undergraduate quizzes, instructing in the classroom and laboratory, and conducting tutorials.
The departments regard seriously the benefits of a teaching assistantship as a preparation for a career in university teaching. Each year, the Institute offers a prize, the Goodwin Medal, for conspicuously effective teaching by a graduate student.
The units for which an instructor or teaching assistant may register as a student are determined by the department in light of the student's assistantship duties, program of study, and compensation. Teaching assistants receive stipends as well as tuition support for the services that they provide.
Appointments to teaching assistantships are made upon recommendation of the head of a department. A student who wishes to be considered for a teaching appointment should contact the departmental graduate administrator. Only full-time graduate students who are candidates for advanced degrees may be appointed. A Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is required for all teaching assistants who are US citizens or permanent residents.
Each year about 3,800 graduate students at MIT hold appointments as research assistants. The principal duty of a research assistant is to contribute to a program of departmental or interdepartmental research.
Most students welcome the opportunity to participate as a junior colleague of a faculty member in an ongoing research project that frequently influences their choice of thesis topic. Appointments to research assistantships are made by the department head to full-time students who are candidates for advanced MIT degrees.
The units for which a research assistant may register are determined by the department in light of duties and program of study. Research assistants receive stipends and tuition support for the services they provide, and are compensated on the basis of time devoted to their research.
Students who receive primary financial support from fellowships or other sources may receive supplementary stipends as teaching or research assistants in accordance with Institute and departmental guidelines.
Tuition payments made through fellowships and research and teaching assistantships are nontaxable.
Stipends provided to teaching (TA) and research (RA) assistants are considered taxable income. For students who are US citizens and permanent residents, TA and RA stipend payments are subject to withholding tax. MIT will issue a W2 form to all students from whom this tax has been withheld.
Fellowship stipends are also legally taxable income. However, for students who are US citizens and permanent residents, tax withholding regulations do not allow for withholding federal and Massachusetts income taxes from the fellowship payments. Thus, students should anticipate the tax obligation, and no W2 will be issued. For international students, federal income tax is withheld from Fellowship stipends at a flat rate depending on the student’s visa type; Massachusetts income tax is not automatically withheld and it is the student’s responsibility to determine their state income tax liability and make estimated tax payments to the state, if necessary.
More information on tax rules for US and international graduate students is found on the Office of Graduate Education website. A helpful two-page reference document is provided by the Office of the Vice President for Finance.
Graduate students may want to consider federal student loans first as these loans ordinarily have better terms and conditions. To establish eligibility for federal student loans, applicants must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the MIT Graduate Loan Application. The maximum Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan per year is $20,500. Application forms and details of the application procedure may be obtained from SFS in Room 11-120.
Students who need additional student loan funding (beyond the Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan) may want to consider securing a Federal PLUS Loan or private alternative loan, which are not based on financial need. The Federal PLUS Loan and private alternative loans may be used to borrow the remainder of a student's expenses. MIT does not maintain a preferred lender list. MIT believes it is inappropriate to endorse or recommend one private loan over another as students and their families have different needs and priorities.
Students who are not US citizens or who do not hold a permanent resident visa are not eligible for federal loans. International students must be prepared to meet their expenses without help from loans from the Institute. International Students may consider applying for loans from private sources as explained in the previous sections. Most of these loans will require a US-based co-signer.
Student Financial Services (SFS) maintains listings of on-campus and off-campus job opportunities that are open to graduate students. Some positions are available directly through administrative offices on campus. Graduate students who hold full-time research or teaching assistantships or fellowships and who are US citizens or permanent residents may typically work an additional 10 hours per week in such employment. For additional information, visit Student Financial Services.
For international students, regulations regarding on-campus and off-campus employment depend on the student's visa type and other circumstances; full details are available on the International Students Office website.
US graduate students who complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and are eligible for Federal Work-Study may do paid community service. Wages are subsidized for students performing direct community service at approved nonprofit agencies. For additional information, please see the website.
Any graduate student at MIT may apply for a position as a graduate resident tutor (GRT) through Residential Life Programs. The compensation for a GRT position includes free use of a room/apartment in the assigned residence during the appointment plus a stipend of $730 per semester (which is taxable).
Students who are receiving veterans' benefits need to verify their enrollment each term in order to be certified. For more information, visit Veterans' Benefits at MIT.