Rights and Responsibilities Surrounding Financial Aid

Because study toward the doctorate in the Program is a full-time activity, we make every effort to provide sufficient financial aid to all of our students. Our history has been that we have been able to support students for five years. However, some types of aid, especially aid distributed by the University, may have more restrictive credit and time limitations. Information about sources of financial aid can be found in the Graduate School Catalog and the Policies and Rules for Graduate Study in Psychology. Here, we describe some of the logistics that relate to the distribution of financial aid and your rights and responsibilities in accepting such support.

Financial aid comes to the Department from a variety of sources, both internal (e.g., Graduate School fellowships, Graduate Assistantships from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences) and external (e.g., work in the Psychological Services Clinic, working in various corporate and school settings, research grants, etc.) to the University. University- based sources, including Graduate Assistantships, summer fellowships, and pre- doctoral fellowships, are allocated to the Department and divided among the seven Programs according to an agreement worked out years ago by the Program Heads. Each Program is responsible for setting their own rules for distributing these resources to students.

In the spring of each year, the Director of Clinical Training will ask students to indicate their requests for a variety of positions. As much as possible, student requests will be honored, but many factors in addition to student preference may dictate decisions regarding financial support. The basic decision rule used by the clinical faculty is to distribute aid as equitably as possible within classes, subject to a number of contractual and pragmatic constraints, as follows:

  1. Some students will have special financial awards from the Graduate School or other sources which obligate the Program to provide matching resources, or which preclude their involvement in additional TA positions.
  2. Certain positions require specialized expertise or skills. These include psychological assessment and consultation or clinical supervision in the Psychological Services Clinic, psychotherapy at external agencies, or computer or data analytic skills.
  3. The existence of an “underground meritocracy,” in that if you do particularly good work for certain faculty members, these individuals will be quite vocal in requesting your continued involvement with them over subsequent semesters. This folkway is most clearly noticeable with regard to faculty who have grant support, which gives them the freedom to hire whom they wish. It also operates less visibly in the requests made by many faculty for specific students to serve as teaching or grading assistants.
  4. We need to balance student requests for particular positions against the needs of the larger community and various mandates that we fill certain positions annually so that we can keep them as sources of funding. For example, the Psychological Sciences Department is required to provide Teaching Assistants each year for the large Introduction to Psychology courses. Each program in the Department must cover a certain number of lab sections for those courses. With the increasing availability of research support, it has become more difficult to meet this obligation, and occasionally requires that students assume TA hours they have not specifically requested.
  5. The (relatively infrequent) occurrence of “positive serendipity” – sometimes, we get a sudden windfall of support (usually Teaching Assistantships) that must be allocated literally within hours. In this circumstance, the recipient may simply have been in the right place at the right time.

In allocating financial aid, we make every attempt to be equitable, within these constraints. Certain implications stem from these conditions, however, that you should be aware of.

First, financial aid is not an automatic entitlement; most forms of financial aid involve meeting specific job obligations. Even fellowship support is aimed at having you complete portions of your master’s or dissertation research. As a Graduate Assistant, you are an employee of the State of Connecticut, and covered under the GEU-UAW Collective Bargaining Contract, and you take on the rights and obligations associated with this employment status. Students are eligible for 10 semesters of departmental financial aid. Students beyond the 10-semester limit are not eligible for departmental funding but are eligible for non-departmental funding (e.g., research grants, paid practicum, non-departmental teaching).

The type of work available varies greatly; some tasks may be applicable directly to your professional growth but many will not be. Available job positions must be aimed at meeting the teaching, administrative, and research needs of the Department and Program. We will make reasonable attempts to match your preferences for assignments and hours to existing positions. In some cases, however, we will recommend that you take a position that we need to fill for the long-term good of the Program or Department. You are free to refuse this recommendation, but your refusal will drop you behind others for funding priorities during that particular semester or year.

Second, individual advisors will not seek support on their own for particular students from sources within the University. By agreement, such requests are funneled through the Program Heads on behalf of the entire Department.

Third, the faculty are supportive of helping facilitate your access to gainful employment from other venues, with the explicit approval of your major advisor. For example, we have helped students find teaching jobs at nearby colleges. Such outside support will not be counted toward the 10-semester maximum imposed by the Department. Be aware, however, that you may not work more than a total of 20 hours weekly, without obtaining the approval of the clinical faculty and the Graduate School. This limitation is aimed at facilitating your completion of degree requirements.

Need-Based Financial Aid

In addition to the Department and University funding described above, you may also be eligible for need-based financial aid, depending upon your individual economic circumstances. Need-based financial aid (Federal loans and Federal Work-Study) is administered and awarded through the University’s Office of Student Financial Aid Services. Details of the application and award process, including forms that need to be completed and submitted to be eligible for need-based funding can be found on the Student Financial Aid Services Graduate Student Financial Aid webpage. In the past, Federal Work-Study Funding has allowed for graduate students to earn their Federal Work-Study awards by performing work in their advisor or other faculty’s labs, however the status of Federal Work-Study funds is uncertain at present; in recent years, only minimal funds have been available.

In addition to meeting financial need requirements for Federal financial assistance, eligible students must also meet certain course enrollment requirements as well as UConn’s satisfactory academic progress (SAP) policy in order to maintain their eligibility for need-based Federal funding. Please see this Office of Student Financial Aid Services webpage for specific eligibility requirements.

The University is required via federal regulation to establish a satisfactory academic progress (SAP) policy; Students who are found to be in violation of the parameters set forth by the SAP policy are ineligible to receive most forms of federal, state, and institutional financial aid. UConn’s SAP policy can be viewed on the Office of Student Financial Aid Services webpage.

Most forms of Federal financial assistance require students to maintain full-time or half- time enrollment. Requirements for maintaining full- or half-time enrollment can be found in the Academic Regulations section of the Graduate School Catalog.

The clinical faculty are not aware of your specific financial needs or your loan history; therefore, we do not compute your financial need into what we offer from our non-need based Department/University funding sources (described above). Ineligibility for Federal, need-based financial assistance does not affect your eligibility for non- federal aid such as departmental assistantships, research assistantships, and university wide fellowships. It should be noted however that certain types of Department and/or University funding that you receive (particularly fellowship funding) may impact your eligibility for need-based financial assistance or the amount of need-based financial assistance you have been awarded.