Is there a reason for not receiving regular, biweekly paychecks as a fellowship recipient?

Date: December 2018



I am an NSF GRF and had a question regarding payroll. Currently, I receive three checks a year without tax deductions. While I like having a large sum of money in my account, it applies a lot of pressure to budget over a long period of time (four to five months). Another fellow who transferred to Cornell from another graduate program has told me that the previous institution used to pay her with a regular, biweekly paycheck.

I was wondering if there was a specific reason for this. If so, what is it? If not, is there a way I can change it for myself?


A grad student who doesn’t like spending money


Dear “A grad student who doesn’t like spending money,”

First, let me offer my congratulations to you for earning a NSF fellowship!  It’s one the most prestigious and competitive fellowships available to U.S. students in the STEM and social science disciplines.   

Assistantship stipends for teaching assistant (TA) and research assistant (RA/GRA) appointments are paid through Cornell’s payroll office on approximately the 15th and 30th of each month, and the university is required to make applicable tax withholdings. Fellowships stipends, however, are fundamentally different because these stipends are not provided to you with any service expectations in return. Fellowships are processed and taxed as academic scholarships.  Because of this distinction your fellowship stipend cannot be processed through the payroll office and is subject to different rules governing tax withholding. Fellowships stipends disburse to your bursar account as lump-sum payments at the start of each academic term (August, January and June) and are reported on a 1098T tax form that will be sent to you in January. A detailed description of Cornell’s NSF stipend disbursement schedule can be found on the NSF GRFP Fellowship page.

Students typically appreciate having fellowship stipends pay out as lump-sums, but it certainly does increase the pressure to budget carefully. Cornell offers a number of resources to make this process more manageable:

I’ll also offer that my colleagues in the Graduate School’s fellowship office are always happy to answer questions and receive feedback from fellows. Feel free to contact Mariah McNamara, director of admissions and fellowships, or Holly Boulia, fellowship specialist, or me any time!



Jason Kahabka
Associate Dean for Administration