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The Graduate and Professional Student Assembly's 2009-2010 budget will increase by 19.2 percent, from $643,153 in fiscal year 2009 to $787,078 for FY2010.

The increase was due to the administration's recognition of a disparity between the budgets of the Undergraduate Assembly and GAPSA, according to outgoing GAPSA chairman Andrew Rennekamp, a Ph.D. student in the School of Medicine.

Funding for student government at Penn comes from the "general fee" on students' tuition bills.

Currently, Rennekamp said, the UA receives approximately 5.22 percent of the general fee paid by undergraduates. GAPSA, on the other hand, only gets 3.57 percent.

The increase in funding for FY2010 will bring GAPSA's share of the general fee paid by graduate and professional students to approximately 4.12 percent, he said. Over the course of four years, the group plans to bring that number to 5.22 percent, the share received by the UA.

Associate Provost for Education Andy Binns wrote in an e-mail, "The increase will bring support for graduate student government more in line with the level of support, as a [percentage] of general fee, provided for undergraduate student government."

"I don't think anyone's intentionally trying to shortchange GAPSA," Rennekamp said, instead attributing the disparity to graduate student government's previously decentralized nature. Even as recently as two years ago, he said, there were a number of student government bodies at the graduate level. As a result, "there was no direct comparison to what the undergraduates were getting," he said.

Rennekamp said funding for student affinity groups at the graduate level, especially minority groups, would be a priority.

GAPSA chairwoman for finance Christa Heyward, also a Ph.D. student in the Med School, said next year's preliminary budget allocated approximately 61-percent more funding for graduate student groups, estimating that the maximum level of funding a group could apply for would increase by $1,000 - from the current $1,500 to $2,500 next year.

However, Heyward wrote in an e-mail, budget allocation is still in its preliminary stages and "depends on the number of groups that apply and the decisions of next year's finance committee."

Another priority is increasing the funding for travel grants for students to present at academic conferences, Rennekamp said, since the conferences are a "necessary part of their career."

The increased funding will also help fund GradFest, a carnival where graduate and professional students celebrate the end of the spring semester that was formerly funded by GAPSA's surpluses. Rennekamp pointed out that this source was not sustainable because "we really don't have a surplus anymore."

The increased budget will also allocate more money to each of Penn's 12 graduate schools' individual student governments.

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