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A graduate student leads a introductory college mathematics recitation. 

Credit: Ari Stonberg

The School of Arts and Sciences will pause admissions for school-funded Ph.D. programs for the 2021-2022 academic year.

SAS Dean Steven J. Fluharty and Associate Dean for Graduate Students Beth Wenger wrote in an email to SAS standing faculty and graduate students on Tuesday that the decision was made as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the school’s finances. 

“While we recognize that this news is disappointing, we also believe that this is the most responsible course of action in these unsettled times,” Fluharty and Wenger wrote. "We hope to accept applications in the fall of 2021 and welcome a new cohort of graduate students in the 2022-23 academic year."

Pausing admissions for the next academic year will allow SAS to allocate available funds towards current graduate students who need more time to complete their degrees, according to the email. In the coming weeks, Fluharty and Wenger will meet with the graduate and department chairs to create a program providing funding to students who require extra time to complete their degrees.

Fluharty and Wenger wrote that graduate programs are encouraged to continue admitting Master of Arts and Master of Science students for the 2021-2022 academic year. 

Many Ph.D. students have faced obstacles to completing their research on time to graduate due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Students in GET-UP, the union of graduate and professional students at Penn, recently demanded that the University extend funding packages for all doctoral students by one year.

"Doctoral candidates conducting field research have been forced to put their work on hold indefinitely, facing new uncertainties and serious ethical questions about how they will conduct and fund their now prolonged research programs," GET-UP representatives wrote in a guest column for The Daily Pennsylvanian. "Students in the sciences unable to access labs are seeing their experiments suspended and their research plans upended." 

Graduate students enrolled in school-funded Ph.D. programs generally receive multi-year financial packages to cover tuition, fees, health insurance, and a living allowance or stipend.

The majority of SAS graduate courses are operating remotely this semester, with some exceptions for in-person laboratory access with required approval, according to an update sent to SAS graduate students from Wenger in July. 

"Our commitment to graduate education remains steadfast, and we look forward to emerging from this period with renewed strength," Fluharty and Wenger wrote.