Progress on Stipend Task Force Recommendations

In May 2023 the Graduate Stipend Task Force issued its final report including a set of recommendations for improving systems and processes associated with the entry and payment of graduate student aid.  Since that time the work of the task force has continued.  Below is a report on the progress to date made on these recommendations.  


Immediate-Term Recommendation

  1. Ensure that each school establishes the appropriate deadlines so that graduate aid entries for stipends are entered and approved for processing no later than May 22, 2023.  This will ensure that graduate students receive their stipends no later than June 1, 2023.



Short-Term Recommendations

  1. Ensure that established deadlines are clearly published and communicated to school/departmental graduate aid administrators, as well as on a central website to be maintained by the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs, so that payments may be processed well in advance of the established deadlines.  


Important dates and deadlines for the entry, processing and disbursement of graduate aid are listed on the Departmental Aid Users website and referenced on a central website developed by the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs (OGPA). OGPA communicates timely reminders and other information in advance of important deadlines, including those in advance of each term.


  1. Develop a comprehensive FAQ and Information Website, to be hosted on the Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs website , that clearly communicates information to Graduate Students regarding payment calendars, expenditure reimbursements, I-9 compliance, etc. This initiative will require collaboration from the members of the Task Force and other University partners.


A website on graduate student funding processes including Frequently Asked Questions is posted here:  Students and administrators are encouraged to provide suggestions on additional FAQs and information that will be helpful. 


  1. Schools and departments should develop a process whereby the aging of expenditure reimbursements is monitored to ensure that graduate student reimbursements are processed in a timely manner.   Schools also should consider whether or not it is feasible to move to a meal per diem, rather than an itemizing of meal expenditures, which require receipts.


UVA Finance has developed a report within Workday specific to expense reimbursement issued to graduate students. Schools are monitoring the report regularly and conferring with departments as needed to address aging expenditures. 


Medium-Term Recommendations

  1. Schools should consider developing an automated process (EIB) to upload wage payments for graduate students into Workday, cutting down on duplicate data entry and minimizing errors.  


UVA Finance has worked with school-level representatives to develop templates and processes for the generation and upload of wage assignments (Including Graduate Teaching Assistantships and Graduate Research Assistantships) into Workday.  Although EIBs may not be a time-effective solution for schools with small numbers of students in wage assignments, some schools have already implemented the process and others are testing with planned implementation over the course of future terms. 


  1. Convene a user/stakeholder community, hosted by the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs, for those who process graduate aid, which will meet regularly to provide for listening sessions, monthly user meetings, and knowledge exchange, in order to identify pain points and process improvements.   


The Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs has reconvened regular monthly meetings of school-level finance contacts for graduate aid and is working collaboratively with SFS, ITS and other units to enhance communication and resource sharing among the Department Aid Users Group.  


  1. Update and advertise user training on the Workday, Student Information System (SIS), and Student Aid Funding Modules (SAFM).   


User training guides and documentation are updated, catalogued and advertised through the Department Aid Users Group.  Ongoing feedback from users will continue to be incorporated into improved training guides and Frequently Asked Questions. 


  1. Consider modifying the Student Financial Services’ (SFS) emergency loan policy to allow it to better meet the needs of students who are transitioning from stipends to wages. 


Members of the Task Force have collaborated with Student Financial Services to create a new Grad Bridge Loan program that provides higher loan amounts and extended repayment periods.  Details of the new loan program can be found here


Long-Term Recommendations

In addition to these short- and medium-term recommendations, the Task Force Report also identified the following set of long-term recommendations. While some of these items have been under exploration, work in these areas will commence in earnest in Spring of 2024.


  1. Consider amending the stipend payment dates from a payment date of the 1st of the month (as is the current process) to the 15th of the month in order to shorten the long payment gap experienced by students switching from stipend to wage. 


School-level finance leads, OGPA and SFS representatives continue to explore and investigate options that would yield a consistent benefit across a majority of programs while also reducing administrative burden.  Although an optimal solution improving upon the current disbursement schedule has yet to be identified, potential options will remain under exploration and advisement.   


  1. Examine staffing levels, recruitment practices, and retention patterns in departments/schools to ensure that there is adequate staffing, cross-training, and temporary coverage to accomplish the tasks associated with the administration of graduate financial aid. 


Examination of departmental staffing in the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences has determined that while overall staffing levels were diminished during the pandemic, the number of staff has since rebounded to nearly pre-pandemic levels with plans to hire additional, new roles.  Future staff will be trained and organized to provide supplemental support in the case of temporary leaves or transitions.  


  1. Consider developing and enabling one central system for entering, reporting, monitoring, and accounting for graduate financial aid.  Study is needed to determine the business case, cost-benefit analysis, and required resources.


Initial consideration of system requirements has yet to identify a suitable single system.  Future consideration will continue to investigate viable options wile focusing on the integration and improvement of existing systems. 


  1. Develop guidance and document the proper workflow around Cross-Unit SAFM entries, which will address the current complications experienced when graduate students are funded across schools.  


Guidance and workflow pertaining to cross-unit SAFM entries has been developed and shared across schools.  


  1. In consultation with department/school administrators, central SFS staff, central ITS staff, and central Reporting staff, develop automated audit reports and other end-user reporting that will simplify and enable reconciliation between Workday, SIS, and SAFM.


School-level finance leads, SFS representatives, and others continue to share reporting strategies and to identify improved dashboards, audit and reconciliation reports that improve workflow, and mitigate the likelihood of errors.