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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Graduate and professional student government GPSA discusses defining funding allocation rules, GPSA allocates Graduate Scholarship Fund money to 20 UNM graduate and professional students

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The Graduate and Professional Student Association (GPSA) plans to make the rules for funding allocations more structured than in the past.

At a GPSA meeting on Saturday, GPSA member and Executive Finance Committee Chair Sarah Coffey said GPSA has about $30,000 left for the 2012-13 academic year to allocate for graduate student organizations. She said the council should create stronger rules to determine how to better allocate money throughout the year.

GPSA began the year with $58,294 for allocations, which is an estimated amount that factors in expected enrollment for spring 2013.

“We have limited funds,” she said. “But our actual main concern … is we don’t want to make these judgment calls for what is a worthwhile organization and what isn’t, and if you don’t have rules in place, we’ll have to start making those.”

Coffey said the rules would impose limitations for allocations in hopes that all student organizations won’t ask for money at the beginning of the academic year expecting that the money will run out by the end of it. She said the rules will ensure that new ideas and plans that arise later in the year can be funded.

“We don’t want to kind of race to the finish. We don’t want everyone to come to us in January because they know that in March there won’t be anything,” she said. “We are really concerned that if someone has this amazing idea in April, we’re going to be like ‘Oh, that’s awesome, but we can’t help you.’ We really don’t want to be in that situation.”

GPSA member Talal Saint-Lôt said changing the rules for how money is allocated will also help ensure that GPSA members are not subjective in their decisions as to how money should be allocated.
“Our job is to facilitate the process of giving them access to money,” he said. “We’re not looking to become gatekeepers of the money or make exception calls on what type of research is more important or what conference is going to serve students better than others.”

Graduate Scholarship Fund
Coffey said GPSA allocated $20,000 in scholarship money on Friday through the Graduate Scholarship Fund. She said 20 students who were in need of funding received $1,000 each.

“We allocated $20,000 to students who really couldn’t afford to be in school, which was preventing them from graduating,” she said. “It was a very long and very involved process but we’ve completed the very first round, so I’m very excited.”

Coffey said GPSA received 73 applicants and that this is the first time GPSA has offered the scholarship. She said the scholarships were given based on a 500-word proposal in which applicants explained their financial need and how the money would help them, and each student’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form.

The FAFSA form completed by applicants was an internal, FAFSA-like form created by GPSA to ensure that students who don’t have a Social Security number could receive funding so that more students had access to the scholarship.

Coffey said students were scored based on a percentage of need ranging from 0 percent to 100 percent, with 100 percent representing the students in the most need of funding. Coffey said the scholarship provided funding for students from a wide range of departments, including the English Department, the School of Medicine, mechanical engineering and political science.

“We weighted the FAFSA to be 20 percent and the proposal to be 80 percent. And then it was just the top scores that we allocated the money to — 20 of them,” she said.