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L&S Student Assistant Appointment Letters

This KB provides important information about appointment letters for Student Assistants (also called Graduate Assistants) at the College of Letters and Science, with links to frequently used documents and policies. Contact your SA HR Business Partner with questions. For campus policies related to graduate assistants, please visit Graduate Assistant Policies and Procedures (GAPP) at https://policy.wisc.edu/library/UW-5082

Instructions for Appointment Letters

Student Assistant appointment letters do not need to be reviewed or approved by your SA HR Business Partner unless they differ in a material way from the template. Small modifications in tone and small additions to the language do not require review/approval unless they contradict the terms of the appointment letter. 

Best practice is to download and use a new template appointment letter from the links below with each hire or group of hires, since appointment letters are revised periodically throughout the year.  At a minimum, departments should download new template appointment letters just prior to each new semester’s hiring.   

Per GAPP, these are guidelines for appointment letters for all student assistants:

  • The employing department is required to send a copy of the appointment letter to the student’s department of graduate study, if different from the employing unit. 
  • The department is required to provide the appointment letter to the student before the start of employment.
    • If some appointment information is not yet available by then, the department must still provide a formal appointment letter with the most accurate tentative information available. The department should note which information is tentative. When information can be confirmed, the department should provide a follow-up email to the student as soon as possible, but the department is not required to send a revised or updated appointment letter.

Additionally, per GAPP, these are guidelines for notifying TAs of their tentative course assignment.

  • Departments must notify TAs of their tentative course assignment, if known, no later than August 1 for fall semester courses; and December 1 for spring semester courses. The department can send this notification to the TA via email if it would like. This is an additional requirement, above and beyond the requirement to provide a formal appointment letter as notified in the previous section.

Appointment Letter Templates

Fellow/Trainee

Grader/Reader

Lecturer(SA)

Project Assistant (PA)

Project Assistants may be exempt or nonexempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  

  • Most Project Assistants are non-exempt. During the academic year they are non-exempt unless there is a concurrent exempt appointment, (i.e. TA or LSA). The exempt status dictates what rate to use in JEMS HIRE or JEMS Change, and in the appointment letter.
    • If the appointment is non-exempt, use the converted hourly rate.
    • If the appointment is exempt, use the salaried rate.
    • See rates:  https://kb.wisc.edu/ls/28638

Research Assistant (RA)

Teaching Assistant (TA)

Per GAPP, these are guidelines for notifying TAs of their tentative course assignment.

Departments must notify TAs of their tentative course assignment, if known, no later than the following: August 1 for fall semester courses; and December 1 for spring semester courses. The department can send this notification to the TA via email if it would like. This is an additional requirement, above and beyond the requirement to provide a formal appointment letter.

  • Graduate Assistant as a TA 
    • Teaching Assistant Appointment Letter Template, revised 02/09/2023
    • Phasing out Teaching Assistant Senior distinction:
      • L&S eliminated the Senior/Standard distinction for Teaching Assistants. 
      • TA appointment letters should continue to identify the title as “Teaching Assistant – Standard or Teaching Assistant - Senior” as appropriate  
      • For non-payroll purposes, feel free to use  other terms to identify a hierarchy (e.g., eligibility for awards or other recognition, or to become a head TA, etc.)
      • For payroll purposes, JEMS still requires selecting senior or standard, so continue to identify as “senior” any TAs who were payrolled as senior as of Spring 2018. Enter any others as “standard”.
  • Undergraduate Assistant as a TA 

Undergraduate Assistant

  • These positions require special approval.
    • Undergraduate Assistant–TA – see “Teaching Assistant” above
    • Undergraduate Assistant-Grader/Reader – see “Grader/Reader” above  

Information for Appointment Letters

Semester Instructional Dates 

2024-25

  • Fall 2024
    • Payroll Start Date: August 19, 2024
    • Payroll End Date: January 3, 2025
  • Spring 2025
    • Payroll Start Date: January 2, 2025
    • Payroll End Date: May 18, 2025

2023-24

  • Fall 2023
    • Payroll Start Date: August 21, 2023
    • Payroll End Date:  January 3, 2024
  • Spring 2024
    • Payroll Start Date: January 4, 2024
    • Payroll End Date: May 19, 2024

Calculating Gross Salary & Biweekly Salary 

Use the “Funding Layout Assistance Tool” (FLOAT), available on OHR Payroll Toolkit, to calculate the semester gross and biweekly salaries.

Alternatively, calculate the biweekly salary manually using the following formula:

  • Comp rate divided by the number of biweekly pay periods in an academic or calendar year (19.5 for C-basis, 26 for A-basis) multiplied by the appointment FTE.
  • Example #1:  33.4% Lecturer (SA) with a C-basis comp rate of $45,000:
    • ($ 45,000 / 19.5)  * 0.334  =   $ 770.77
  • Example #2:  50% Research Assistant with an A-basis comp rate of $60,000:
    • ($ 60,000 / 26) * 0.500 = $1,153.85

Maximum Level Appointment Information

When, how and why are graduate students limited in the amount they can work? How is an appointment which has an assigned "FTE" counted towards the appointment limit?

Limits during the academic year

During weeks in which academic year classes are in session (Fall and Spring semesters), graduate students are limited in the amount they can work, as follows:

Weeks in which Academic Year classes are in session:

2024-2025

  • Sunday, September 1, 2024 through Saturday, December 14, 2024
  • Sunday, January 19, 2025 through Saturday, March 15, 2025
  • Sunday, March 23, 2025 through Saturday, May 3, 2025

2023-2024

  • Sunday, September 3, 2023, through Saturday, December 16, 2023
  • Sunday, January 21, 2024, through Saturday, March 23, 2024
  • Sunday, March 31, 2024, through Saturday, May 4, 2025

Limits during this time are as follows:

Domestic vs Foreign National:

  • Domestic graduate students are limited to 75% time (30 hours a week) in all combined concurrent appointment
  • Foreign national graduate students are limited to 50%-time (20 hours per week) in all combined concurrent appointments. 

Concurrent Research Assistant appointments

  • If the graduate student has a concurrent Research Assistant (RA)* appointment, the graduate student is limited to a total of 75% FTE if domestic and 50% if foreign national in all combined concurrent appointments.

Concurrent Fellowship

  • In addition to the limits above, if the graduate student has a Fellowship, graduate school policies limits total earnings in all combined appointments during the fellowship to no more than the full-time RA rate of the graduate student's academic home department. 

Weeks in which academic year classes are not in session (Semester Break, Spring Break)

2022-2023

  • Sunday, December 18, 2022 through Saturday, January 21, 2023
  • Sunday, March 12, 2023 through Saturday, March 18, 2023

2023-2024 

  • Sunday, December 17, 2023, through Saturday, January 20, 2024
  • Sunday, March 24, 2024, through Saturday, March 30, 2024

Limits during this time are as follows:

Concurrent Research Assistant appointments

  • If the graduate student has no concurrent Research Assistant (RA)* appointment, the graduate student can work up to 100%-time (40 hours per week) in all combined concurrent appointments.    
  • If the graduate student has a concurrent Research Assistant (RA)* appointment, the graduate student is limited to a total of 75% FTE if domestic and 50% if foreign national in all combined concurrent appointments

Concurrent Fellowship

  • In addition to the limits above, if the graduate student has a Fellowship, graduate school policies limits total earnings in all combined appointments during the fellowship to no more than the full-time RA rate of the graduate student's academic home department. 

Limits during other times

During other times of the year, graduate students have other limits as described below:

  • Winter Break
    • 2024-2025
      • Sunday, December 15, 2024 through Saturday, January 18, 2025
    • 2023-2024
      • Sunday December 17, 2023 through Saturday, January 20, 2024
  • Summer
    • 2024-2025
      • Sunday May 4, 2025 through Saturday, August 30, 2025
    • 2023-2024
      • Sunday, May 5, 2024 through Saturday, August 31, 2024

Limits during this time are as follows:

Concurrent Research Assistant appointments

  • If the graduate student has no concurrent Research Assistant (RA)* appointment the graduate student (domestic or foreign national) can work up to a total of 100%-time (40 hours per week) in all combined concurrent appointments.    
  • If the graduate student has a concurrent Research Assistant (RA)* appointment, the graduate student (domestic or foreign national) can work up to a total of 75%-time (30 hours per week) in all combined concurrent appointments.

Concurrent Fellowship

  • In addition to the limits above, if the graduate student has a Fellowship, graduate school policies limits total earnings in all combined appointments during the fellowship to no more than the full-time RA rate of the graduate student's academic home department. 

How FTE is calculated; Relevant Policies

How does graduate school policy ‘count’ the amount worked, for an appointment which has an FTE (Full-Time Equivalent) assigned to it? 

Some jobs/appointments at UW-Madison have FTE (Full-Time Equivalent) assigned to them, while some are Hourly (Student Hourly/Student Help, or Project Assistant Hourly or "H-Basis”).

FTE (Full-Time Equivalent) is a percentage assigned to an appointment, which correlates to number of hours per week.  For example a 50% FTE is equivalent to 20 hours per week (50% of a 40 hour week = 20 hours). 

For Graduate School policy limits, all work at UW-Madison contributes towards the graduate school and visa limitation, whether the appointment has an FTE assigned to it or not, or whether the work is paid as a lump sum payment or via a lump sum appointment. 

If the student has an appointment with an “FTE” assigned to it, graduate school policy (and visa requirements, for foreign national students) takes that FTE and converts it to an equivalent amount of hours.  For example a 50% FTE is equivalent to 20 hours (50% of a 40 hour week = 20 hours). 

The graduate school policy and visa requirements then takes that equivalent number and “counts” it as being worked each week, even if the student did not actually work that number of hours in the week.  For example, a 50% FTE counts as working 20 hours each week, even if the student only worked 15 hours in the week.

If a foreign national student is appointed at 50% FTE during the academic year, that is the only work they are allowed to do at UW-Madison during the academic year (except during designated break weeks). They cannot work any additional hours or be paid lump sums for any additional work above that at UW-Madison, during the academic year. 

Failure to work within appointment limits is a violation of study permit conditions under a F-1 or J-1 visa.  For more information, see

Concurrent Fellow appointments

If the graduate student has a fellowship, graduate school policies limit total earnings in all combined appointments during the fellowship (to no more than the full-time RA rate of the graduate student’s academic home department).  

Concurrent Research Assistant appointments

There are special limits when the graduate student holds a concurrent RA appointment because the graduate student is required to be registered/enrolled in classes and there is a concern about the total academic load and intensive nature of these appointments. 

For this reason, an RA appointment itself can never be more than a 50%-time (20 hours per week) appointment. For this reason also, in summer when there is an RA appointment involved foreign national graduate students are treated the same as domestic graduate students. When there is a concurrent RA appointment the combination of appointments during the summer can be no more than 75% for any graduate student – domestic or foreign national.  

Enrollment Requirements

See https://policy.wisc.edu/library/UW-1208 

Relevant UW Madison Policies



KeywordsTA, PA, appointment letter, graduate student employment, graduate student employment ls, Project Assistant, Program Assistant, Teaching Assistant, template letters, template, letters, student assistant, SA, SA letter, SA letter template, RA, Research Assistant, grader/reader, grader, reader, undergrad, undergraduate, grad student, templates, max, max level, max level appointment, semester dates and   Doc ID22288
OwnerNicholas F.GroupL&S KB
Created2012-01-18 09:15:07Updated2024-02-09 12:51:55
SitesL&S KB
CleanURLhttps://kb.wisc.edu/ls/ls-teaching-assistant-and-project-assistant-appointment-letter-templates
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