The Undergraduate Assembly has passed a record-breaking budget of $2,647,878.64 for the 2019-2020 academic year, with notable increases to the Student Activities Council’s budget and funding specifically set aside for the senior class board’s Feb Club for the first time.
The budget represents an increase of $97,873.64 (3.84 percent) from the $2,550,005.00 allocated for the 2018-2019 academic year. The money will be distributed to the six branches of student government, Medical Emergency Response Team, and Penn Labs.
The UA was able to increase their budget because of an increase in their source of funding: the general fee, which is a portion of every student's cost of attendance that funds student activities. The general fee, which rises as the University’s tuition and fees increase, rose from $6,364 per student in the 2018-2019 academic year to $6,614 per student for the 2019-2020 academic year, newly elected UA President and College junior Natasha Menon said.
SAC will receive $1,347,690.30 next year, its biggest budget in history, two percent more than the $1,320,876.67 it received in the 2018-2019 academic year. SAC will be recognizing 26 new student groups this year to receive access to SAC funding — a significant increase from the typical 10 to 15 new recognitions each year, due to a more lenient application process. SAC currently recognizes more than 200 students groups on campus, SAC Chair and Wharton and Engineering junior Emily Su said.
The UA’s budget is determined by the assembly’s budget committee. The budget committee for the upcoming academic year was led by Menon, who previously served as the body’s treasurer.
SAC Vice Chair and College junior Elena Hoffman said SAC requested a funding increase to recognize more student organizations. SAC recognized groups are able to apply for annual budgets and request contingency funding for club events and projects, Su said.
Hoffman said SAC typically recognizes between 10 and 15 groups each year, but this year they decided it was financially feasible to give more funding to student groups.
“We always have so much money left in our reserves,” Hoffman said, adding that the money that SAC does not spend is generally used to help clubs pay off any loans or debt.
"It's not that that money doesn't get spent, but we just thought that for so long, we had been too cautious," Hoffman said.
SAC took a more generous approach to evaluating applicants, Hoffman said. She added that SAC was less likely to reject groups that fit all of the required criteria for applying, marking a change that emphasized meeting standard requirements over interview performance.
Menon said another major change was granting the senior class board $1,300 specifically for non-alcoholic events during Feb Club. She said the lack of funding for these events was a concern among previous senior class boards and she hopes that the change will help reduce the senior class board’s “stress of trying to create profits throughout the years through fundraisers.”
In previous years, the class board had to take on the brunt of the fundraising alone, but she said the additional money can serve as a safety net and take off pressure from the class board.