Financial aid available to students ranges from loans to full fellowships. Most graduate students are supported by fellowships, research assistantships, or teaching assistantships. Awards are made on the basis of scholarship and promise for outstanding achievement. The applicant's grade point average, score on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), and letters of recommendation are the primary means used for selecting new students to receive financial aid.

Fellowships range from small grants ($1,000) from funds donated to the geotechnical engineering program, through Engineering Foundation Fellowships ($2,000 - $18,000 per year). University fellowships are also available (about $5,000 - $15,000 per year). Additional support offered to fellowship recipients includes qualification for paying lower, in-state tuition and fees, or may include full payment of tuition and fees (average tuition and fees are approximately $5,000/year for Texas residents and $10,000/year for out-of-state residents). The College of Engineering offers limited support for site visits for prospective fellowship recipients.

Research assistants are normally paid from sponsored research projects. The usual appointment is half time, requiring at least 20 hours of work per week on the assigned project. Research assistants are expected to work on these projects while taking courses during the fall and spring academic semesters, as well as during the summers. The research that a student performs while a research assistant is used for their thesis or dissertation. These documents may also serve as the final report to the project sponsor.

Teaching assistants aid the faculty in various undergraduate and graduate courses. The primary assignments for teaching assistants in the geotechnical engineering program involve teaching the laboratory sections of our undergraduate course in soil mechanics, but may also involve laboratories in the Introduction to Computer Methods (CE 311K) or Elementary Statistics for Civil Engineers (CE 311S) courses. More rarely, students may be assigned to the introduction to civil engineering course entitled Civil Engineering Systems (CE 301).

For the 2004-05 academic year, starting pay rates for half-time research and teaching assistants are approximately $1,150 per month for M.S. students, with slightly higher rates of $1,311 per month for Ph.D. students who already hold an M.S. degree. In addition, health insurance is covered as part of the assistantships. Raises are usually given each September for students who are making satisfactory progress toward their degree. In nearly all cases, research and teaching assistants receive additional support in the form of full or partial payment of tuition and fees. This arrangement depends on the source of funds and is handled on a case-by-case basis.

Applicants who apply for financial assistance are considered for both fellowships and assistantships. A student's file should be complete by January 15 to receive full consideration for financial aid for the fall semester. Financial aid offers are normally made in March, and most U.S. universities (including the University of Texas) have agreed that prospective students will have until at least April 15 to respond to financial aid offers. Typically, additional assistantships are offered after April 15 as projects are funded. Students may also begin in the summer or in January, with financial aid offers for these entrance times being made on an ad hoc basis.

The number of students supported on financial assistance each semester depends on the availability of funds. At present, we are able to provide financial assistance to almost all of our graduate students. In general, we do not offer financial support to new international graduate students for their first semester of study. However, international students who enroll and do well in their graduate courses often find support in later semesters.