Graduate assistants concerned with financial aid
TNE Editor
/ Categories: Feature, Campus

Graduate assistants concerned with financial aid

Published 11/29/18

Jordan Gogo

TNE Writer

On average, NSU educates over 7,000 undergraduates each academic year. While most students attend to complete their bachelor’s degree, over 1,000 stay to pursue their master’s in a graduate program. Although NSU remains a cost-effective choice among universities in Oklahoma, graduate classes cost about $50 more than undergraduate classes per credit hour.

While the increased cost may cause concern for some students, NSU offers a graduate assistant program that provides a tuition waiver and monthly stipend. However, some students believe that this solution still may not make graduate school as affordable as it should be. Gemini Creason, graduate assistant, is particularly concerned with the differing monthly stipends distributed to graduate assistants.

“I found out through talking with other departments that graduate assistants don’t get paid the same,” said Creason. “My friends in the English department make $600 a month. Criminal justice only offers $200, and communication studies offers $200. Because I work for both, I get $400 for 20 hours, but my counterparts in criminal justice work the same 20 hours and they only get $200.”

Creason believes NSU should improve their graduate assistant program to compete with other universities.

“When I was considering going to the University of Arkansas for my master’s in Spanish, they wanted me to apply to be a graduate assistant,” said Creason. “They offered me $1000 a month, plus all of my tuition would be covered. Compared to NSU, I’m paid $400 because I have two contracts and only 6 credit hours are covered. I stayed here because I like the classes, the campus and working in the Writing Center and the Comm Lab.”

Kevin Neal, criminal justice graduate assistant, is more concerned with the tuition waivers that NSU offers graduate assistants.

“Normally, master’s full time is nine hours,” said Neal. “For students looking to take the full nine, you’d have to pay for one class. It takes longer to complete the degree.”

Neal earned his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice with a focus in legal studies. After graduating, he planned to attend law school, but was convinced to stay after the university offered a graduate assistant position to him. Instead of taking full, nine-hour semesters, he takes the six hours his tuition waiver covers.

“I’m Cherokee Indian, so I do get a scholarship through the nation,” said Neal. “However, it’s limited, meaning it will eventually run out. It’s very difficult to find scholarships for graduate students. It’s more geared towards undergrads. People say all the time, ‘there are plenty of scholarships.’ Okay, where? There’s no reason why the university can’t have a special link for graduate students to be able to look up.”

Jessica Langston, senior coordinator for scholarship enrollment, works with students during the admission and enrollment process. She believes NSU is adequately making scholarships available to graduate students, but funding for scholarships overall is lacking.

“The information is in the same place as all other scholarships on the NSU website,” said Langston. “Everything that’s available is there. The majority of scholarship funding does go to undergrads. There isn’t a ton of money for them [graduate students]. Unfortunately, there’s a lack of funding for all students really.”

Dr. Cari Keller, Graduate College dean, further elaborates on these funding issues.

"It's incredibly challenging to compete with GA stipends or tuition waivers offered at the R-1 institutions,” said Keller. “Our stipends and tuition waivers are competitive within the RUSO institutions."

RUSO, or the Regional University System of Oklahoma, is the largest four-year university system in the state. According to their website, the six institutions governed under this system are responsible for nearly 40 percent of college graduates in Oklahoma. This system governs smaller institutions like Southwestern Oklahoma State University and University of Central Oklahoma, schools that are more comparable to NSU than the state’s larger institutions.

“It’s really based largely on the funding that’s available and the source of that funding,” said Keller. “There’s a lot of regulations behind the scenes that dictate how those [graduate assistant] positions are funded and what they can do. Students may not understand why these differences exist.”

While students are frustrated with the lack of funding, many do not directly blame NSU.

“I completely sympathize with the funding problems that the university is going through,” said Aaron Kindle, English department graduate assistant. “It’s a societal problem. If we treasured education more as a society, I think the funding would be there.”

Regarding funding issues, Neal shares a similar sentiment with Kindle.

“In the state of Oklahoma, we’re having issues with education reform,” said Neal. “That doesn’t boast well for educators or the ones wanting to be educated. I think it starts with legislation from the top down.”

For more information about the graduate assistant program including tuition, monthly stipends and job opportunities, call the Graduate College at 918-444-2093.

To access the scholarships available to students, visit the scholarships website at

For more information about the Regional University System of Oklahoma, visit

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