GAPSA prepares for a tight budget

The group’s funding remains on hold, pending an investigation of its finances.

by Haley Hansen

The Graduate and Professional Student Assembly’s financial future is in limbo, as the group hasn’t received its funding for the year.

Although GAPSA’s funding is on hold, the group’s leaders are planning how they can operate on a tighter budget and still meet the needs of graduate students.

In May, Vice Provost for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Danita Brown Young put GAPSA’s funding on hold and announced the start of an investigation into the group’s finances after an alleged $93,000 budget discrepancy.

That investigation hasn’t concluded, but GAPSA President Alfonso Sintjago said the group is hoping it will finish by the end of the month so it can receive its funding.

Last week, representatives from Deloitte & Touche LLP — an external financial consulting firm contracted by the University — met with the group to retrieve financial records for the investigation, Sintjago said.

For now, however, GAPSA’s executive committee is reviewing the group’s $232,000 budget, which is about $160,000 less than it requested for the year, he said.

GAPSA plans to use its reserve funding and tap into long-term investments to cushion the transition, Sintjago said.

Using reserve funding isn’t ideal, Sintjago said, and it’s important that GAPSA receives its funding in order to continue awarding grants to graduate students and to maintain its pass-through funding to its member councils.

Even though the group’s financial future is unclear, GAPSA leaders said they are optimistic about the year.

GAPSA’s executive vice president, Ashley Hall, said planning the year with an unclear budget has been difficult at times, but members are hopeful that the group will receive its funding and they are making plans for when they get it.

“I think it’s been a learning experience, and hopefully it will be something we’ll benefit from,” she said.

GAPSA received less funding this year than it requested because it failed to comply with Student Services Fees Committee deadlines.

Sintajo said GAPSA is coping with the cuts by going through its budget item by item to see where it can reduce costs.

He said the executive board is adjusting all areas of the group’s budget and cutting funding in every area by at least 10 percent, with up to 90 percent cuts in other places.

But with the money the group has, Sintjago said GAPSA wants to maintain relationships with its past partners and programs.

“It’s hard because when you have that kind of a cut, you have things that have worked really well, but you still have to cut them,” he said.

Hall said the working budget still allows GAPSA to focus on its bigger goals, like promoting open education and a freeze for graduate and professional student tuition.

GAPSA will approve the final budget for the year in its first general assembly meeting Sept. 24.

Despite the financial cuts and the ongoing investigation, Sintjago said GAPSA leaders are ready to move forward and to focus on their goals for the coming year.

“The main concern is, how do we address the needs of graduate and professional students with the money we have allocated?” he said.