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Graduate students are pushing for the creation of a central fund for graduate financial aid to help students through their summer funding hiatus. Unlike undergraduate financial aid, which is centrally pooled and distributed according to students' needs, graduate financial aid is currently given out by departments in the form of stipends or fellowships, most of which are merit based. While undergraduate financial aid comes both from private donations and University contributions, graduate money is raised soley by private giving. Graduate Student Associations Council President Michael Polgar said last week that graduate students want the University's capital campaign to contribute to graduate teaching and financial aid. The capital campaign has already raised close to $32 million for graduate student financial aid, which is over sixty percent of its goal and on a quicker pace to meet its final tally than is the overall campaign. Polgar criticized the manner in which graduate financial aid is disbursed. He said that graduate students usually work as teaching assistants and are funded during the year but then do not get paid over the summer. "Departments don't universally support students over the summer," said Polgar. "We need summer fellowships." To finish the 20 courses required of all graduate students within the three years underwritten by stipends, graduate students must take two summer courses. Polgar said he wants graduate students to be able to receive merit-based summer fellowships from a central fund. The money would fund academic research for graduate students who spend the summers working at the University while taking classes. Provost Michael Aiken said that he does not think it is feasible to change the current distribution of graduate funding. But Polgar said the administration is shifting the burden of funding to the schools rather than addressing it at a central level. "The Provost will defer to the school, the school to the department, the department to the particular situation and not all departments can support all students," said Polgar. Graduate students met two weeks ago with Sue Ledwell, director of graduate student financial counseling, to discuss a central graduate financial aid fund. Ledwell said there should be more graduate funding on the central level, adding that the meeting with students gave her ideas for improving the financial aid network. But she said the discussions were only preliminary and no changes have been decided. "We want to adequately support funding whether it be in the form of a grant or a loan," said Ledwell. Polgar said that the meeting was productive but added that he still wanted to meet with Vice President for Development Rick Nahm and Senior Vice President Marna Whittington.

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