Student gov’t discusses simplifying grant apps

by Brian Edwards

After complaints that the unwieldy process made applying difficult, a grant program that some professional students said lacked clarity will be amended this summer. 
Following the split of the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, the new Professional Student Government is working to address the issues many students had with their grant program, which some students said was confusing and redundant.
The changes include creating and eliminating different grants along with constructing a new application, which the student government leaders hope will encourage more professional students to apply.
Jonathan Pin, grants secretary for PSG, said nearly one-third of students who would try to apply would run into problems with the grant application process.
Redundant application forms forced students to consult the government group for assistance in order to complete their application, he said.
Levi Long, a University of Minnesota-Duluth pharmacy student who leads a service learning project, was planning a weeklong trip that brought other pharmacy students to Mexico to help distribute medicine in villages.
Long applied for a $2,500 grant, and he said there were many times he needed help during the process.
“I had a student who had previously filled it out and was able to answer my questions,” he said. “Without someone to turn to, it would’ve been difficult.”
Long said the lengthy application didn’t have a save function, and he was forced to copy each section of the application into a separate document so he wouldn’t lose it.
The new grant application will be paperless, shorter and have a save feature, but applicants will still be held to the same requirements as before, said Kyle Kroll, president of PSG.
The scholarly travel and professional development grants, which fund trips to academic events like conferences, will be consolidated to avoid needless paperwork, Pin said.
Students apply for the former if they are traveling to present research and apply for professional development grants if they are traveling to the same event but aren’t presenting, Pin said.
Another grant will roll out to encourage different types of professional students — like medical and law students — to collaborate, which hasn’t frequently happened in the past, Pin said.
“Our goal for these changes is to make the process as straightforward as possible,” Pin said. 
PSG plans to discuss the changes this month and finalize them by the fall, Kroll said. Leaders will also field input from students about how the program is working for them.
Kroll said next school year, PSG is hoping to continue working on solving issues that can hinder students’ work, like the former grant process.
“This year is about better supporting councils and professional students in their work rather than advocating for certain causes,” he said.
Long said drawing attention to each step of the grant process would cut down on much of the confusion that surrounds the program and ultimately benefit many professional students.
“First-year professional students are bombarded with many different acronyms,” he said. “Once people know about this program and it is more available, I think that it will be extremely helpful.”