Student Funding

Students in BGS are provided with a full-fellowship guarantee to cover stipend, tuition, fees, and health insurance for the duration of their training as a student in good academic standing. The 2019-2020 stipend is $34,000.  BGS student fellowships are managed by the BGS Finance Office on the 4th Floor of Anatomy-Chemistry.

Students are supported by a combination of institutional funds and external funding through training grants, individual fellowships, and research grants. More information about training grants and fellowships is available here

 

Stipends/Payroll

Prior to enrollment, BGS students are required to submit documentation in order to be set up in Penn’s payroll system. Information about required documentation is provided here.

Questions regarding  a student’s stipend should be directed to the BGS Payroll Manager, Tiffany Brooks, brookst@upenn.edu

Links are provided below for assistance with specific payroll-related questions.

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Tuition and Fees

BGS covers the cost of students' tuition and fees as part of the BGS fellowship.  Payment is made through the University’s Pennant Accounts system. Sherita Blair is the BGS Student Accounts manager. 

Penn's PhD tuition policy can be found here.  Tuition and fee amounts are provided here.  

BGS thesis mentors contribute to the costs of student tuition and fees, but the costs are supplemented with institutional funds. Each June, BGS sends a memo to all BGS faculty detailing the costs to mentors in the coming year.  Questions should be directed to Namrata Narain.  

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Health Insurance

BGS covers the cost of single coverage health insurance on Penn’s Student Health Insurance Plan.  The insurance cycle runs from August 1 through July 31 each academic year. Students must enroll in (or show proof of comparable alternate insurance) each year by the deadline posted on the PSIP website. Questions about coverage can generally be addressed through PSIP. For BGS-specific questions, contact Anne-Cara Apple.

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Dental Insurance with Penn Subsidy

The Office of the Provost provides grants to reimburse 50% of the cost of Penn Dental insurance for all PhD students who purchase insurance for the full academic year by October 11, 2019. Because this grant is intended as a partial reimbursement and not an up-front subsidy, students are responsible for the full cost of purchasing insurance and may incur late fees if these are not paid on time. The reimbursement ($215) will be issued by early November. More information is available at https://gsc.upenn.edu/resources/graduate-funding-and-finances/insurance-subsidies-and-grants#dental; please contact gradcenter@upenn.edu with any questions.

Alternatively, discounts are available for dental care services within the teaching clinics for all University of Pennsylvania undergraduate and graduate students who do not have dental insurance. Routine preventive and restorative services will be discounted 30% and all specialty services, including oral surgery, orthodontics, periodontics, endodontics, and prosthodontics will be discounted 20% for self-pay students with a valid University ID.  Payment plans are also available. Appointments are made through the patient appointment line at 215-898-8965.

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Loan Deferment

Students who request loan deferment will receive loan deferment forms from their lending provider(s), not BGS. Once a student obtains the form, s/he should:

  1. Complete the student section of the form; don't forget to sign and date
  2. Prepare a stamped and addressed envelope to the address of the lender noted on the form
  3. Hand-deliver the form and prepared envelope to Namrata Narain in the BGS Financial Operations Office in 417 Anatomy- Chemistry Building. If she is not there, leave the materials in the wire basket labeled NAM to the right of the door inside the office.

BGS will complete and mail the form within 48 hours of receipt. Copies of completed forms will be stored in the student’s file.

Note: Most lenders require loan deferment forms to be submitted every academic term.

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Tax Information

For a supporting documentation tax letter please contact BGS Payroll Manager, Tiffany Brooks at brookst@upenn.edu

The following is intended to serve as a guide for students when filing taxes. However, we recommend that students contact a qualified tax consultant in order to determine the Federal tax laws and how they apply to a fellowship. Please be aware that the University does not offer tax-consulting services and there are no campus offices considered to be qualified tax authorities. International students should contact Penn's Corporate Tax Office if the following documents do not answer your questions.

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Travel Funds

BGS offers travel funds for BGS students to help offset the cost of conferences and off-site courses. See bottom of page for other mechanisms to fund research-related travel.

Amounts
  • $1,000 max per fiscal year (July 1 – June 30) for scientific conferences
    • In general, only for those who will be presenting (papers or posters)
  • $1,500 max per BGS lifetime to attend an off-site course (Note: There is a separate form for Course Fund Requests, see below)
  • $1000 max per BGS lifetime to attend a career-development conference.
Restrictions
  • Only 1 travel award per year
  • Eligibility based on dates of trip, not date of request
    • Conference requests due 21 business days before conference start date
    • Requests submitted after conference start date will not be accepted
    • Off-site course requests due 30 business days before date of departure
Exceptions
  • Granted at the  discretion of the BGS Director
Requirements
  • Completed  form (available below) which includes
    • Budget (fees and funding)
    • Presentation abstract
    • Advisor recommendation and approval
  • If traveling abroad, registration with Penn Global Activities Registry
    • Proof of registration
Forms

Please submit all required documents to Tiffany Brooks at brookst@upenn.edu and contact her if you have any questions.

Other Travel Grant Mechanisms Available to BGS Students

GAPSA Research Student Travel Grant and President Gutmann Leadership Award (for international travel) 
http://www.gapsa.upenn.edu/individual-grants

Fontaine Society Travel Grant (for Current Fontaine Fellows) 
TBA

Association of Women in Science-Philadelphia Student Travel Awards
https://awisphl.org/what-we-do/awards/travel-awards/
Application Instructions (PDF)

Students who are appointed to a training grant or have an individual external fellowship may be able to use funds from those sources for travel. Check with the business administrator of the grant/fellowship for details.

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Compensation for Teaching Assistantships and Other Supplemental Activities

In general, BGS students are not required to teach and are not supported by teaching assistantships. The exceptions are Neuroscience and Biostatistics students, who are required to teach for a semester as part of their training. Students in any graduate group who wish to obtain teaching experience may apply for TA positions offered by departments sponsoring undergraduate courses and for a few BGS-related TA positions. Teaching opportunities are announced by email.

Students may not accept TA ships without prior approval of their thesis advisor (if applicable) and graduate group chair. Effort should not exceed 10hrs/week. If a student is conducting a full-semester TA ship or other job that requires 100+ hours of service, approval of the BGS Director is required as well. In addition, students may serve as TAs or conduct other approved tasks for a maximum of two semesters only. (Exceptions may be made at the discretion of the thesis advisor and graduate group chair for students conducting short term or otherwise limited service, such as tutoring.) Students who wish to participate in a 3rd semester of teaching for the CTL certificate program or a 3rd semester of supplemental activity for the PCI fellows program may do so with the permission of mentor and graduate group chair. (Note that BGS students are not permitted to serve as resident assistants, given the substantial demands associated with these positions.)

Students should complete and submit the forms below (PhD and VMD-PhD students, use BGS students link; MD-PhD students, use the MD-PhD students link) to request permission. The BGS office must receive the completed form prior to the start of the semester in which the work will be performed in order for payment to be approved. Instructions are at the bottom of the forms.

Contact Colleen Dunn at dunncoll@pennmedicine.upenn.edu with any questions regarding TA ships and the academic approval process. Contact Tiffany Brooks at brookst@upenn.edu with any questions regarding payment.

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Mentor Support of Graduate Students

Thesis mentors assume responsibility for a portion of a student’s support.  Mentor support normally begins on June 1 after the student’s second year in the program.  When a student is selecting their thesis mentor, the mentor is asked to submit the BGS Mentor Funds Check Form.  Each June, BGS sends a memo to all faculty members indicating their costs for the upcoming fiscal year. 

If an established mentor anticipates a funding shortfall, he or she should discuss the matter with the Graduate Group Chair and the Director of BGS. A BGS Emergency Financial Aid (EFA) Committee evaluates requests from mentors for temporary financial assistance; the mentor and graduate group chair should complete and sign the EFA Committee request form.

Contact Nam Narain with any questions at narain@pennmedicine.upenn.edu.

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Training Grants

Eligible students (generally US citizens or permanent residents) may be appointed to a training grant at some point in their PhD training.  Information about training grants at Penn is provided here, including lists of funded grants and information for faculty preparing training grant proposals.

Some training grants support general training in a discipline during the student's first, second, and/or third year.  Others are more specialized and support advanced thesis level students. Generally, calls for nominations are made to the training faculty of a grant, encouraging them to nominate their students. In some cases, broader calls are made directly to students.  Announcements are generally made in the spring by email.  BGS has a shared nomination process for four of the training grants that support BGS students. 

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Fellowships

BGS students are guaranteed funding for stipend, tuition, fees, and health insurance throughout the program. The funding is derived from a variety of sources, particularly training grants, institutional funds, and research grants of thesis mentors. However, there are a number of reasons students may want to consider applying for an individual fellowship.  These include:

  • Experience: The process of applying for a fellowship develops grant writing skills.
  • Prestige: Competing against a national pool of candidates and receiving an individual fellowship from an external funding agency can make a student more competitive for subsequent awards.
  • Financial Benefits: For most students, receiving an individual fellowship will not increase the stipend, but awards often come with additional funds for travel to conferences or other educational expenses (computers, books, etc).
  • Benefit to Mentor: Student fellowships free up funds for the lab’s research and other personnel.

Most of the BGS students who receive external fellowships are awarded National Institutes of Health (NIH) individual predoctoral National Research Service Award (NRSA) F30 or F31 awards or National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program awards.

Many fellowship opportunities are tied to particular research areas and support students at the thesis stage. There are also fellowships that are broad in terms of area of research, but have other eligibility criteria, e.g., awards for students with underrepresented backgrounds.

More information on fellowships is available here

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