Everyone - even the conference chair - pays for a pass so that we can provide for those who might not otherwise be able to attend. This includes major diversity and outreach programs through Women Who Code, PyLadies and Python User Groups, speakers, and students.
An interesting aspect of this is that PyCon, as a conference, offers a very generous financial aid program — this means that some attendees, speakers, tutorial presenters, etc have some, or in rare cases, all of their expenses such as flight, hotel and admission provided to them from the PyCon budget. PyCon goes out of it’s way to encourage people to apply for financial aid — even if we can’t cover all of your expenses, we will give you free admission based on need. The FA application process is simple, and straight forward. It’s also very liberal — the only caveat is that speakers at the conference “get bumped to the top” of the applications so that we don’t lose a good talk because of financial need. We also don’t ban anyone from applying.
We use the FA budget to not only help the “normal” attendees of the conference, we also keep an eye towards diversity — for example in 2010 we had a specific grant program (funded by Google) for women to attend PyCon — which they did in amazing numbers! We also try to help more people with less money than less people with more money — we want to spread assistance out as much as possible. This is why FA requires room-sharing at the conference hotel, this is why we may only cover part of a given applicant’s costs — we want to help more people.
Essentially, the financial aid program is the PyCon Outreach program - it's the community holding up the community and making itself accessible at this major event through these financial grants. It is the very spirit of the conference; make the information, knowledge, friendships and connection available to everyone or at least everyone we can budget in.
Financial aid is core to the mission of the PSF - The mission of the Python Software Foundation is to promote, protect, and advance the Python programming language, and to support and facilitate the growth of a diverse http://www.python.org/psf/diversity/ and international community of Python programmers.
We are happy to say, that on most years, we very happily break our financial aid budget — meaning, if we have a positive outlook, we will gladly overspend on financial aid and take less “profit ” for the conference. The point of the conference is the community, it’s not about the conference! We help the community as much as we can by helping to cover the costs of people who would not otherwise be able to attend. For 2013, we have already raised our financial aid budget by over 100%!