Departmental Funding Criteria
The funding criteria stated below are applicable to funding that is controlled and allocated by the Department. These are primarily Graduate Assistantships (which are usually referred to as "Teaching Assistantships") and University Fellowships. These criteria apply both to positions within the Department of Economics and also to positions funded by other Departments, such as the MMSS program, who subcontract the appointments to such positions to the Economics Department. You can also download a Summary of Continuation and Funding Rules.
The funding criteria can also be taken as a definition of making "good progress" in the Ph.D. degree. As such they are used as a guideline for when the Department seeks to appoint people as instructors or recommends students for outside fellowships. Faculty also considers the progress of students when making appointments to Research Assistantships.
In rare cases, a student's admission letter may contain alternative funding criteria, which take precedence over these rules.
Students from countries where English is not the native language must achieve a score of at least 65 on the Versant English Test to be eligible to be a Teaching Assistant.
Students should have completed their spoken English requirement (meaning that the Department has a copy of their results) by July 31 to ensure that they are eligible for funding as a Teaching Assistant.
Only students whose countries of origin are Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom or the United States are exempt from sitting the Versant test. It is Departmental policy not to seek exemptions or alternative testing for individual students.
First year students
A student's admission letter indicates whether or not they have been awarded a University Fellowship in the first year. Unfortunately, we cannot make additional fellowships available to unfunded students after enrollment. However, funding in the second year and beyond depends on the student's progress, as detailed below, and not on the nature of first year funding.
Second year students
Funding decisions for students entering their second year are announced after the grading of the preliminary examinations. Typically, this occurs in mid-August. Teaching Assistantships are awarded to students who have demonstrated competence in the three core areas: microeconomics, macroeconomics and econometrics. The exception is for those students who demonstrated competence in the three core areas based solely on first-year grades. Appointments for these students are announced in early August.
Third year students
The requirement for obtaining a Teaching Assistantship in the third year is completion of at least one Economics 501 paper which is certified as acceptable by a faculty member by July 31 at the end of the second year (see certification form). While certification by a faculty member is required, presentation at the Economics 501 seminar is not. The presentation of the paper is usually in the Fall Quarter of the third year, although presentation in the Spring Quarter of the second year is encouraged. Appointments are announced in early August.
Fourth year students
Funding is only available for fourth year students who have completed their thesis prospectus by August 31 at the end of their third year. (A "thesis prospectus," formerly known as "admission to candidacy," requires a successful thesis proposal defense, and completion of all course work and field papers.)
The nature of the funding is a Teaching Assistantship in the Fall and Winter Quarters, followed by a University Fellowship in the Spring Quarter. The latter requires the student's dissertation committee chair to certify by February 15 that the student is expected to enter the job market in their fifth year (see certification form). In the absence of such certification, the student are funded as a Teaching Assistant in the Spring Quarter.
In addition, the Department awards the Robert Eisner Memorial Fellowship to one fourth year student. To be eligible, students have to have met the standard requirements for departmental funding. This award recognizes a student who has distinguished his or herself in both teaching and research.
We cannot guarantee that Teaching Assistant funds will be available for students whose thesis prospectus is completed after August 31. In any event, a Teaching Assistantship will not be awarded for any quarter in which the student has not completed the thesis prospectus. For example, a student completing the prospectus in November of the fourth year will not receive funding for the Fall Quarter, and will only be funded in the Winter and Spring Quarters if there are any unallocated Teaching Assistantships remaining.
Fifth year students
Students are only eligible for fifth year funding if their dissertation committee chair has certified by July 31 that the student has submitted a written paper sufficiently far in advance of the deadline for the faculty member to have comprehensively reviewed it, and can certify that it is of suitable quality to form at least one chapter of a dissertation (see certification form). Coauthored papers are allowed, but can only be used by one student for purposes of paper certification.
Provided a satisfactory written paper is provided, the dissertation committee chair can indicate whether or not the student will be on the job market in their fifth year. If the student intends to be on the job market, the nature of the funding is a University Fellowship in the Fall and Winter Quarters, followed by a Teaching Assistantship in the Spring Quarter. If the student withdraws from the job market prior to the ASSA meetings, the Winter Quarter fellowship will be converted to a Teaching Assistantship.
In the event that there are still funds available after all of the qualified students in years two through four and the job-market fifth year students have been funded, other fifth year students who have provided a satisfactory written paper will be supported. These students perform Teaching Assistant duties in every quarter that they are funded. However, if the student's dissertation committee chair certifies by February 15 that the student is expected to enter the job market in their sixth year, the Spring Quarter Teaching Assistantship is converted to a University Fellowship (see certification form). Note that if the student took advantage of a University Fellowship in the Spring Quarter of their fourth year, they are not eligible again in their fifth year.
If the student has not provided a written paper, or if the paper is not of sufficient quality to form at least one chapter of a dissertation, or if the student’s dissertation committee chair certifies that the student is not making good progress on their dissertation, the student is not eligible for any fifth year funding.
Sixth year students on the job market
Students need to reaffirm that they will be on the job market by asking their dissertation committee chair to submit a form by July 31 certifying that a satisfactory draft of a job-market paper has been submitted (see certification form). Advanced students are eligible for a maximum of three quarters of University Fellowship. Any remaining quarters of eligibility that the student has not used in their fourth or fifth year can be used for sixth year funding. (The Department suggests that students give priority to taking a fellowship in the Winter Quarter, as they will be traveling and unable to undertake alternative funding such as Teaching or Research Assistantships.) If the student withdraws from the job market prior to the ASSA meetings, any remaining quarters of fellowship are withdrawn. Students may be funded as Teaching Assistants in other quarters, but only if there are still funds available after all of the qualified younger students have been funded.
Sixth year students not on the job market
In the event that there are still funds available after all of the qualified younger students, and the job-market sixth year students, have been funded, other sixth year students will be supported. To be eligible, the dissertation committee chair must certify by July 31 that the student is making good progress (see certification form). These students perform Teaching Assistant duties in every quarter that they are funded. University Fellowships are not available to sixth year students who are not on the job market.
Seventh and higher year students
In normal circumstances, University rules do not permit funding of students in the seventh and higher years. The Department can petition WCAS for funding as a Teaching Assistant only if (a) there are still funds available after all of the qualified younger students have been funded, and (b) there is an inadequate number of Teaching Assistants to meet classroom needs. The dissertation committee chair must have certified by July 31 that the student is making good progress, and preference is given to those on the job market (see certification form). However, University Fellowships are not available, even in the event that the student is on the job market.
First year students
A student's admission letter indicates whether or not they have been awarded a Summer Graduate Fellowship at the end of the first year. Unfortunately, we cannot make additional fellowships available to unfunded students. However, funding in the summers at the end of the second through fourth years depends on the student's progress, and not on the nature of first year funding.
Second through fifth year students
The Department has a budget of Summer Graduate Fellowships to support students in the summers at the end of their second through fifth years. The Graduate School and the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences has the following requirements for recipients of Summer Graduate Fellowships. Students must:
- have been eligible for departmental funding during the previous academic year,
- be intending to register in the following Fall Quarter (unless you are graduating at the end of Summer Quarter),
- conduct academic pursuits, and submit a report on these activities by the start of Fall Quarter,
- do not hold an outside fellowship that provides summer tuition and stipend,
- limit any work for pay either outside of Northwestern University or as an hourly paid research assistant within Northwestern University to a maximum of 120 hours between June 15 and September 15, and
- not take more than three weeks of "vacation" or non-research time away from campus (it is permissible to be absent from campus to conduct research).
The acceptance form for summer funding must be submitted between May 1 and May 15 each year (see acceptance form).
Sixth year students and beyond
The University only funds summers up until the fifth year. Older students can seek Research Assistantships or teach in the Summer Session.Back to top