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Graduate School
The University of Mississippi

Guidelines for Administration of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) at the University of Mississippi

The purpose of this document is to provide guidance to University of Mississippi (UM) students, administrators, and faculty advisors, with regard to how the GRFP program is administered at UM. In particular, this document aims to provide local details not present in NSF’s publications about this program, highlight certain information from NSF’s publications, anticipate and answer likely UM stakeholder questions about the program, clarify or interpret certain program aspects, and identify local points of contact for further inquiry.

General Information about GRFP

The National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) “recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students who are pursuing full-time research-based master’s and doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) or in STEM education. The GRFP provides three years of support for the graduate education of individuals who have demonstrated their potential for significant research achievements in STEM or STEM education.


Who is UM’s Coordinating Official (CO) for the GRFP program?

  • Answer: Dr. Annette Kluck, Dean of the Graduate School

Who is UM’s Financial Official (FO) for the GRFP Program?

  • Answer: Beth Stidham, Manager of Sponsored Programs Accounting

Who submits GRFP proposals—the Student Fellow (hereafter “the Fellow”)? Or the Institution (UM)?

  • Answer: The Fellow.

To whom are GRFP awards made—the Fellow? Or the Institution?

  • Answer: The Institution (UM).

How does UM distribute stipends to GRFP Fellows on TENURE status?

  • Answer: The Graduate School manually disburses the year’s stipend to the Fellow’s Bursar account—generally in equal installments over the course of the tenure year. The institution may change the mechanism through which the funds are distributed should other options allow for with NSF requirements.
  • Fellows interested to do so may be able to negotiate an alternative distribution schedule by reaching out to the CO.

Are NSF GRFPs considered Financial Aid?

  • Answer: Yes, at least most of it is.
    • The stipend, which is disbursed to the Fellow, is recorded and reported as Financial Aid to the Fellow.
    • The portion of the Cost-of-Education allowance that UM applies towards the Fellow’s tuition, fees, and other Bursar account charges (including the Fellow’s portion of graduate health insurance, if selected), is reported as Financial Aid to the Fellow.

However, Cost-of-Education allowance funds applied by the institution towards other fellowship expenses of the Fellow may very well NOT be reported as Financial Aid, as determined by the UM GRFP Coordinating Official (CO), in coordination with the UM GRFP Financial Officer (FO), and the Director of Financial Aid.  Such expenses may include:

    • Travel expenses of the Fellow
    • Conference registration fees of the Fellow
    • Laboratory supplies purchased for the exclusive use of the Fellow in their GRFP research project
    • Financial incentives for human subject participants in the Fellow’s research project
    • Charged fees for instrumentation usage by, or on behalf of, the Fellow, as part of their GRFP research project.

What Are the Institutional Expectations and Other Things I should Know if I am a GR Fellow?

Question: Who determines or approves how the COE Allowance will be spent?

  • Answer: The UM GRFP Coordinating Official, in collaboration with the UM GRFP Financial Officer.

Question: What institutional rules exist related to enrollment?

  • Answer: Students should be enrolled full-time while on TENURE. This means that they must enroll for 9-13 hours each fall and each spring term and 3 hours for the full-summer term for the years on TENURE.

Question: What institutional rules exist related to residency status?

  • Answer: Students do not have to establish Mississippi residency but may wish to do so. The full amount of the institutional allowance is required to cover the University’s tuition obligation for GR Fellows who do not have Mississippi residency. Individuals who have or establish residency may be able access unused funds for professional development as described above.

Question: Can UM GR Fellows on RESERVE status hold graduate assistantships?

    • Answer: Yes.
      1. According to page 23 the Administrator’s Guide “The Intent of Reserve Status is to allow Fellows the flexibility of incorporating professional development opportunities (e.g., GROW, GRIP, research assistantships, teaching assistantships, internships, etc.) into their graduate programs….”

Question: Can UM GR Fellows on TENURE status also receive supplemental pay for other activities?

  • Answer: Maybe.
    • Yes, IF: the CO, in consultation with the Fellow, FO, the Faculty Advisor, the Director of Financial Aid, and other campus stakeholders, certifies that:
      1. the paid activity is a “teaching or similar activity” that constitutes a valuable part of the education and training experience of the Fellow;
      2. that the amount of such activities is “reasonable”;
      3. that the primary purpose of the paid activity is not “service to the institution”; and
      4. that the supplemental funding is allowable under the terms of the award.
    • Generally, such payments should be made as scholarships, to ensure that the primary purpose of the activity is the Fellow’s education, not service to the institution as an employee.
    • A scholarshipped teaching practicum is one way to provide a paid teaching experience to a Fellow without creating a situation in which the service needs of the university (e.g., getting a class covered) is the driving factor.
    • An experiential learning program is a way to provide a paid research experience to a Fellow without creating a situation in which the service needs of the university (e.g., advancing a faculty member’s research agenda) are the driving factor.
    • Teaching and research assistantships, as well as other arrangements that create or suggest an employer/employee relationship, should be avoided while the Fellow is on tenure status.
    • According to page 27-28 of the Administrator’s Guide, in the section called Stipend Supplementation, “Each Fellow is expected to devote full time to advanced scientific study or work during the Fellowship Period. However, because it is generally accepted that teaching or similar activity constitutes a valuable part of the education and training of many graduate students and such opportunities may arise during a Tenure year, a Fellow on Tenure may choose to undertake a reasonable amount of such activities without NSF approval. It is expected that furtherance of the Fellow’s educational objectives and the gain of substantive teaching and other experience, not service to the institution as such, will govern these activities. Compensation for such activities is determined by the GRFP Institution, and is based on the institution’s general employment practices. Fellows are required to check with their GRFP Institution about specific policies pertaining to the GRFP and paid activities.
      “Fellows are permitted to solicit and accept, from NSF or other federal and private sources, support for research expenses, such as laboratory supplies, instrumentation usage fees, field-station usage fees, travel expenses, conference/registration fees, workshop expenses, or subscription fees. For Fellows on Tenure, support for living expenses associated with off-site research activities will require approval by the CO. Fellows are required to check with their GRFP Institution about specific policies pertaining to acceptance of any non-federal fellowships.

Question: Will GR Fellows on TENURE status who are also receiving graduate assistantships have to pay back any received funds?

    • Answer: It depends.
        1. State of Mississippi rules dictate that state funds (known at UM as “Fund 10 money”), in combination with all other aid (including student loans) cannot exceed a student’s official Cost of Attendance for a given academic year (Fall Semester through August Intersession).
        2. Therefore, if the Fellow receives any Fund 10 (state-funded) support, including full or partial stipends or tuition waivers associated with graduate assistantships, for any portion of any academic year in which they are also receiving GRFP aid (stipend and Institutional COE allowance), and if the total amount of all of this aid exceeds the Fellow’s calculated Cost of Attendance (COA), then the Fellow may have to pay back part or all of the state portion of this aid.
        3. Note that there are other sources of funds that are sometimes used to support graduate students, including “35 accounts” (grants and other sponsored projects) and “25 accounts” (overhead accounts). Such sources are NOT considered state funds, and therefore do not trigger the COA limit, and cannot in and of themselves trigger a required payback scenario.
        4. The best way for the Fellow to avoid any aid payback situations is for the Fellow to communicate early and often with the CO and the UM Director of Financial Aid about their total anticipated or actual funding (and funding sources) for the year in question.

Question: Will UM GR Fellows on TENURE status be offered the university’s graduate student health insurance option?

    • Answer: Yes.
        1. UM will pay a portion of the health insurance premiums of GRFP Fellows at the same rate as for graduate students on assistantships[1].
        2. If there are Cost-of-Education funds available in the institutional allowance (after paying the student’s tuition and fees), an extra allocation will be disbursed to the student’s bursar account to cover the student’s expected contribution to the health insurance package.

Question: How will the Cost-of-Education (COE) Allowance be administered at UM?

    • Answer: By the CO.
        1. The CO will first apply the COE towards the Fellow’s tuition, fees (including non-resident fees), and health insurance premiums.
        2. Any remaining COE funds will be managed by the CO on behalf of the Fellow, consistent with allowable costs of the grant.

Question: Is a GR Fellow eligible for other institutional scholarships like the recruiting fellowships or Elite Scholar assistantship enhancements?

  • Answer: Generally, GR Fellows will not be able to receive these funds while on TENURE due to state regulations regarding COE and state funds as well as the NSF restrictions regarding service obligations to the institution. Students who receive(d) recruiting fellowships may pause the recruiting fellowship while on TENURE. They can receive the recruiting fellowship award in their RESERVE years. Similarly, a student with Elite Scholar designation may receive the enhanced stipend for the research assistantship when on RESERVE. However, a student with Elite Scholar designation will not be able to receive the enhanced stipend for the research assistantship while on TENURE.

Question: How will the institution make sure that there are no adverse impacts to the GRFP Fellow if their total Financial Aid package exceeds their calculated Cost of Attendance (COA)?

    • For non-resident students, the COE Allowance will not be enough to cover both the tuition and the non-resident fees. The Provost’s Office will provide Fund 25 monies to cover the difference, so that no GRFP Fellow will have to pay any tuition or fees during their tenure years.
    • Departments will need to use Fund 25 monies for any additional scholarship funds they choose to provide to supplement the Fellow’s stipend (for teaching practicums or experiential learning experiences, for instance).

Additional Information


UM Points of Contact

Annette Kluck. UM GRFP Coordinating Official (CO), Graduate Dean,

Beth Stidham. UM GRFP Financial Officer (FO), Manager of Sponsored Programs Accounting, estidham@olemiss 

Laura Diven-Brown. UM Director of Financial Aid,

Jason Hale. UM Director of Research Development,