Postgraduate Opportunity Fund covers graduate test costs for 36 students in first year

This fall, the Augustana Student Association (ASA) will be changing how they allocate funding from the Postgraduate Opportunity Fund, which has served 36 Augustana students thus far, according to ASA secretary Hailey Nold. 

Reimbursement funding was previously given out at the end of the semester, according to Nold. 15 students were funded after the spring 2019 semester, and 21 before the current fall semester, Nold said. 

According to Section E of the fund’s guidelines, exams that are eligible for reimbursement from the fund are tests that are required to gain admittance to graduate school and tests to obtain licensure which give legal authority to work in an occupation. 

The fund can cover up to 100 percent of an exam and can only be used once in a student’s lifetime. 

Senior Claire Fanta applied to use the fund to help pay for her GRE. “I want to say [the GRE] was about $300,” Fanta said. “Then it costs additional money to send it to every school you need to send it to.” 

Because the fund provides reimbursement instead of money up front, Fanta won’t know until May 2020 what amount of her test was covered.

The fund does not cover certifications, as defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, because “oftentimes businesses will cover [certification fees] for you,” Nold said. 

How is funding allocated? 

Last spring was the first time students were able to apply for funding. 

Currently, the ASA treasurer has to allocate a minimum of 5 percent of the ASA annual budget at the beginning of each semester to the fund, according to Nold. 

“We’ve had one full academic semester and the summer term that people have been funded for,” Nold said. “What they did these past [spring and summer] semesters, is that they looked at a needs basis.” 

According to Nold, student need was broken into three categories: no need, medium need, and high need. Each student is placed into one of these three categories based on their FAFSA application.

“What we’re doing moving forward, is that everyone who applies will get a certain percentage of their test reimbursed,” Nold said. 

ASA is aiming to reimburse all tests at a baseline of 30%, however nothing has been settled. After the baseline funding, additional funds will be allocated based on the same “needs basis” as before, Nold said. 

Reimbursement will also take place at the end of the year instead of per-semester. 

“We wanted to see, in total, how often this was being used,” Nold said.”We also felt, allocation-wise, that [this] was giving us more funding to deal with in total rather than splitting it up two ways.” 

What is the future of the Postgraduate Opportunity Fund?

“The purpose is to provide funding for as many students as we can,” Nold said. “Some conversations that have come up in executive meetings have been finding a donor that will match the funds that are provided. If we don’t find outside donors, I would expect it to outgrow the ASA budget.”

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