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Sunday, December 21, 2014

GPSA seeks budget boost

assistant-news@dailylobo.com
@ChloeHenson5

UNM’s Graduate and Professional Student Association experienced an increase in expenses this year.

Melissa Berghmans, a member of the GPSA Legislative Finance Committee, said requests far exceeded the student association’s budget.

“We were facing a big problem because the total amount that we had to allocate was $155,000, and we had requests for $237,000.” she said. “Basically, no matter what, we had to cut a lot of money.”

Berghmans said more graduate student organizations requested money this year, and GPSA also asked for more funds than usual. She said GPSA was allotted a significant portion of the budget.

GPSA Council Chair Maria Elena Corral said the student association could discuss the possibility of increasing the GPSA student fee, considering the increases in expenses.

“One of the considerations, one of the things that we need to be talking about, is potentially increasing the GPSA fee,” she said. “It hasn’t gone up in quite some time, but our expenses are going up.”

One cause for the increase in expenses stemmed from a rise in grant applications this academic year, said GPSA Chief of Staff Matthew Rush.

Rush said the organization has seen an increase in applications for Student Research Grants and Professional Development Grants since last year. He said there were 162 SRG applications, a 62 percent increase from last year, and 92 PDG applications, a 58 percent increase from last year.

“We actually were able to award 40 Student Research Grants, which roughly amount to about $20,000 for students in their pockets, and 20 Professional Development Grants, so roughly about $10,000,” he said.

Rush said this cycle was also the pilot year for a new Spanish grant reading program. He said the grant committee had seven applications for the program. The committee tried to keep the number of applicants down in order to thoroughly address the needs of the program, he said.

“They were bilingual students, so they were reading both Spanish grants and English grants so they could compare them,” he said. “Language is not a barrier there.”

He said the beginning of the process was a great success and believes the grant committee intends to continue it next year.

Rush said the student association can expect to see further increases in SRG and PDG applications next year. However, because the GPSA budget had not seen much growth, Rush said the organization would have to find a way to allocate funds in order to keep the grant amounts significant.

Rush presented three ideas for allocating funds for grants in the future. The scenarios involved using funds exclusively for current grants, establishing a new research-only grant, and setting aside money for the Graduate Scholarship Fund, which would award needs-based scholarships for students to help finish their degrees.

“We want to make sure it’s a competitive process that students are actually getting money out of,” he said.