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Graduate Support Guarantee Offer Letters
This document details L&S expectations for departments offering and maintaining guarantees of financial support to graduate students.
The purpose of the support guarantee letter is to express the department’s commitment to financially supporting the applicant for an extended time period should they agree to come to UW. The letter is also a binding document that may be referred to in the event of future employment or academic issues. The letter should be sent to all applicants accepted into your program as soon as possible after acceptance (with limited exceptions, see below).
The standard support guarantee letter template for new students provided here allows departments to vary the type of appointments over the years in conjunction with departmental resources, need, and student talents. This document guarantees a student some type of support (at a specified percentage level, see below), but you are not required to make that a TA appointment or any other single type of support. Departments have often found this to be a helpful type of flexibility.
Continuing students need written assurance each spring that the department intends to continue their existing support guarantee the following year (provided they continue to perform well both academically and in any assigned duties). If such assurance is provided in appointment letters or via some other means, a designated "continuing support guarantee letter" is not necessary; however, a template for such a letter is provided here if departments find it useful.
Writing the Support Guarantee Letter: Requirements
If possible, utilize the support guarantee letter template, adding departmental information in the specified locations. Departments may use this letter without review and approval by L&S Admin. If departments modify the template significantly and/or write a unique letter, it must be submitted for review and approval via the Support Guarantee Exercise. Once a letter is approved, it may be used in subsequent years without re-submitting for review.
When writing a letter, the following elements must be included:
The length of time and level of support being offered
Clear statements that in order for the guarantee to remain valid, the student must:
pass a criminal background check,
meet standards for English proficiency if an International student hired as a TA,
continue as a graduate student in the program,
maintain satisfactory academic performance, and
perform satisfactorily in any assigned responsibilities.
Submit your letter for review and approval via the Support Guarantee Exercise.
The appointment percentage listed in the letter is the minimum level that the department is guaranteeing to the graduate student over the specified time. The minimum allowable guarantee percentage is 33.4%; however, in order to make the most competitive offer possible and to best support graduate students, we strongly recommend offering 50%.
Note that you may appoint at a higher level than that listed in a student’s guarantee, but you cannot offer graduate students less than the appointment level guaranteed, unless the student requests such an assignment.
Length of Guarantee
Unless otherwise approved by L&S Administration, the guarantee length for an incoming Ph.D. program graduate student is:
four or five continuous academic years for a student with no prior graduate work; or
three continuous academic years for a student with at least one year of prior graduate work.
Incoming Master's degree students would have the above periods as a maximum; shorter lengths would be determined by the length of the departmental criteria for satisfactory progress toward the degree for which the student is admitted.
Offer letters must be specific about the length of the guarantee and the requirements for satisfactory academic and work performance.
Guarantees to Students who are Non-Native English Speakers
Departments must ensure that all potential non-native English speaking TAs have the requisite skills in English to be effective teachers. All departments are required by campus and Regent policy to have a plan in place for assessing the English proficiency of potential TAs, and to see that they have demonstrated this proficiency before they are assigned classroom duties as teaching assistants. The responsibility for carrying out this policy resides at the department level, where the applicant materials are reviewed, and the TA assignments are made. Please be aware that graduate students who are not qualified in English will not be allowed to serve as TAs. For more information on university policies related to TA spoken English proficiency see: L&S Spoken-English Proficiency for Teaching Assistants: Policies and Procedures
International students on certain visas are required to verify that they have sufficient resources to live in the United States and that some assistantship stipends are not adequate for this purpose (see https://grad.wisc.edu/international-students/). Visa regulations are such that the visa application and approval process for international students can be very lengthy. Please stay up to date on changes in this area via the International Student Services Office.
Offers of Appointment with No Financial Support Guarantee
Under some limited circumstances you may offer incoming graduate students a one-year appointment, without a guarantee for future support. Both student and department need to be very clear on what is being offered so that students do not come here with a one-year offer and an unrealistic expectation of support beyond that. Our practice for many years has been to make such short-term offers only under controlled circumstances, and to use a letter that explicitly states that there is no guarantee of support beyond the appointment being offered.
One-year offers should not be used to "try out" a student; both satisfactory academic progress requirements and the probationary terms for TA and PA appointments should be used for this purpose.
Questions about Graduate Support Guarantee offers should be directed to Lynne Prost (firstname.lastname@example.org), Assistant Dean for Graduate Student Academic Affairs.