Inside Compliance: Graduate Assistants

On the second Tuesday of every month, a member of the Compliance staff will give a behind-the-scenes look at what’s going on around its area and the department. Over the course of every month, each department will be featured at least once. Coming Monday: Communications

A graduate assistant is a student who serves in a support role (assistantship) at a university while completing post-graduate education.  Assistantships are awarded competitively.  Rather than receive hourly wages, graduate assistants at Georgia State are offered remission of all tuition, additionally, the students are often remunerated in the form of a stipend.  In return, graduate assistants are ordinarily expected to work for a department or team at least 20 hours per week.  Typically, the term of the assistantship is one year and may be renewed for a second year upon satisfactory performance, with the potential for a third year in certain programs.

The purpose of graduate education is to develop professionals equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in their chosen fields.  By working under the supervision of coaching mentors and/or administrative professionals, graduate assistants gain valuable experience relevant to their future profession and increase their future employment options.

Graduate assistants are an integral part of the athletic community at Georgia State University, as they provide numerous contributions to the department’s coaches and administrators.  Georgia State currently supports more than 40 graduate assistants in a number of departments such as Academic Support, Business, Corporate Sales, Development, Human Resources, Marketing, Sports Communication, Strength & Conditioning and Ticket Operations, as well as sports team staffs such as football, basketball and soccer.

As with any other facet of an athletic department, there are a plethora of NCAA and institutional rules that regulate the activities of graduate assistants as well as their compensation and benefits.  At Georgia State, all graduate assistants must be enrolled full-time (defined by the university as a minimum of 9 credit hours per semester for graduate students).  However, the student is not required to enroll in any specific graduate program.  In fact, Georgia State graduate assistants are currently pursuing a wide variety of post-baccalaureate degrees, including Exercise and Sport Science, Sports Administration, Business, Law, English, Accounting, Sociology, Spanish and others.

Because their tuition and fees are fully paid for, the NCAA does not permit graduate assistants to receive any amount of compensation that exceeds the value of a full grant-in-aid for a full-time student, with the exception of four complimentary tickets to home athletics contests, complimentary meals supplementary to organized team activities, and incidental expenses incurred during travel to NCAA postseason events.  Furthermore, graduate assistants are permitted to receive compensation earned as a result of working camps or clinics, regardless of whether the particular event is sponsored or officially sanctioned by the university.

The sport we are most familiar with Graduate Assistants working with is Football.  The NCAA limits the amount of graduate assistant football coaches to four (the Georgia State football team currently utilizes the maximum amount of permissible graduate assistant coaches – two work with the offensive staff and two with the defensive staff).  Graduate assistant coaches working with the football team are permitted to take part in on-field coaching and skill instruction as well as engage in extended interaction with prospective student-athletes during official visits, including sharing meals (provided the locale is within 30 miles of campus) and providing transportation to the prospects and their family members or legal guardians between campus and the airport or bus station.

Most of the value provided by graduate assistants is provided on university grounds – in fact, graduate assistants are prohibited by NCAA legislation from evaluating or contacting prospective student-athletes off campus.  There exists an exception, however, for graduate assistant contacting prospects off campus and engage in evaluation of prospects once they have successfully completed the NCAA-issued coaches recruiting examination and are counted toward the limitation of coaches in their respective sport.

Behind the scenes of every successful operation is a group of people that perform functions that, although essential, may not be glamorous and visible to the general public.  Graduate assistants are not in their positions for the glory; rather, they voluntarily undergo the long hours and limited pay in order to have an opportunity to acquire practical, hands-on experience and to gain the knowledge necessary to further their professional development.  Although it can be easy to overlook the contributions of graduate assistants, they are a vitally important part of Georgia State Athletics’ continued success.

–William Winter

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