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Credit: Georgia Ray

The Undergraduate Assembly passed a record breaking budget of $2.75 million for the next academic year.

The budget, which was passed on Sunday, represents an approximate 3.7% increase from this year’s $2.65 million. The budget is distributed to Penn Labs, the Medical Emergency Response Team, and the six student government branches which include the Student Activities Council and the Student Planning and Events Committee.

UA President and College senior Natasha Menon said the budget increases by a similar amount each year and is correlated to the cost of tuition, which has also risen by approximately 4% each year for the past decade. Menon said the fund for the budget comes from the general fee, a portion of student's cost of attendance that funds student activities. The general fee was $5,136 for 2019-2020. 

Menon said although the tuition for the 2020-2021 academic year has not yet been released by the Board of Trustees, the UA budget committee plans for a 3.7% tuition and budget increase, with potential for extra funds if the increase reaches up to 4%.

The Board of Trustees will vote on the cost of attendance for the 2020-2021 academic year on Friday.

College junior and UA treasurer Kevin Zhou said that if the UA receives funding for a larger budget, the extra money will go to SPEC to reduce the number of tickets they need to sell for Spring Fling. Zhou said while the PSG budget allocated by the UA provides money for SPEC Concerts, the UA budget committee requires SPEC to contribute $135,200 to the 2021 Spring Fling concert costs, using the generated revenue from the concert. He added, however, this expectation in past years has been a “historic problem” for SPEC to meet.

Zhou said SPEC generated a large amount of revenue several years ago after high turnout at concerts such as the 2017 Spring Fling concert featuring EDM DJ Zedd. Based on the large amount of revenue they made, SPEC projected future budgets assuming revenues would reach similar amounts. In recent years, however, Zhou said the concert has not sold enough tickets to cover the amount the UA requires SPEC to contribute. 

“They locked [SPEC's expected revenue] into the budget a lot of years ago,” Zhou said. “But [the expected amount of revenue] is no longer realistic.”

The Fling concert saw low concert attendance in 2018, the first year SPEC consolidated Fling into a one-day event. SPEC President and Wharton senior Linda Ashmead told The Daily Pennsylvanian that SPEC will revert Spring Fling this year to its two-day format in hopes of increasing concert attendance.

Zhou added that while the UA budget committee has worked to reduce SPEC's required revenue in the past few years, they cannot eliminate or drastically reduce the revenue at once. He said that doing so would force the UA budget to cover the entire concert expense and cost the UA too much money.

Nominations and Elections Committee Chair and College senior Olivia Crocker said the NEC saw a 2.3% increase in their overall budget and hopes to expand diversity training for all branches of Penn Student Government. In fall 2019, the NEC opened their diversity training to the other five student government branches after PSG members pushed for sensitivity training. 

Crocker added that the NEC plans to increase election publicity to include more Facebook ads. Crocker said the NEC found these online ads to be the most effective way to increase voter turnout amongst students.

SAC received $844,100, a 3.5% increase from this year, for their regular fund for clubs next year. SAC Chair and College sophomore Grayson Peters said the budget increase will allow SAC to fund on-campus conferences for the first time.

The budget also includes an additional $5,540 for the Sophomore Class Board to fund U-Night, a new tradition which began last year, that celebrates class unity for the sophomore class. The Senior Class Board received an additional $5,500 for non-alcoholic Feb Club programming after students complained about difficulties in reserving tickets for Feb Club, a series of events for seniors, this month.