Yale’s Graduate School announced a $1,000 increase in its annual stipend levels for the 2005-2006 academic year, expanded eligibility for summer study fellowships and several other changes to its financial aid package for graduate students late Thursday afternoon.

The new nine-month stipend level will be $18,000, a 6 percent increase from last year, Graduate School Dean Jon Butler announced in an e-mail to Ph.D. students and Graduate School faculty yesterday. Students entering Ph.D. programs in the humanities and social sciences in the fall of 2005 will also be eligible for three summer study fellowships worth $3,500 each during any of their first five years of study. Current graduate students are only eligible for two such fellowships.

The stipend increase is the lowest in five years, as the University works to curb its reported $15 million budget deficit. But Butler said he thinks the percent increase is generous, given current economic conditions.

“These percent increases are unusual inside or outside universities,” Butler said. “I think we’re doing well.”

The Graduate School worked closely with the Graduate Student Assembly to address student concerns, Butler said. Next year, the Graduate School will provide a fellowship for humanities and social sciences students to cover the $500 continuing registration fee imposed on all fifth- and sixth-year graduate students. The Graduate School also followed proposals by the GSA and the Graduate and Professional Student Senate to waive the $52 fee students must pay during the summer to use the Payne Whitney Gymnasium.

GSA vice-chair Jeffrey McCutcheon GRD ’08 said the elimination of the fee is a “huge victory” for GSA, which has been lobbying for the change for more than two years.

“It’s one of these annoying fees we think graduate students shouldn’t have to pay,” McCutcheon said. “It affects humanities and social science students the most, because they pay it out of their pocket.”

Graduate Employees and Students Organization chairwoman Mary Reynolds GRD ’07 said she approves of the changes but is disappointed that the University has continually refused to negotiate with graduate teaching assistants.

“I think it’s always heartening to see the school respond to graduate students’ concerns,” Reynolds said. “The problem with the changes is that decisions are made unilaterally by the administration.”

The changes, which will affect about 1,050 graduate school students, will keep Yale on par with the financial aid packages offered by schools like Princeton and Cornell, Butler said.

“We want to keep up with our competitors, and we want to do better than our competitors,” Butler said. “The better our financial support, the better our chances of competing with our competitors for the best graduate students.”

At Princeton, humanities and social sciences Ph.D. candidates are eligible to receive summer fellowships for five summers to help students make progress toward their dissertations, Princeton officials said.

Butler said he hopes Yale’s changes in this area, which will affect about 250 students, will see similar results.

“We want to reward people,” Butler said. “We want inducements for students to make great progress in their work.”

GSA chair Christopher Mason GRD ’07 said he thinks the increased summer funding will have a “huge impact” on students’ ability to complete their work. GSA’s ultimate goal is to provide students with summer fellowships for all five years, he said.

McCutcheon said GSA will continue to work with the administration to help Yale provide competitive financial aid packages to attract the best students.