Graduate fees place burden on students

Faced with the realization that I will be leaving USC in May to join the “real world,” I went to the 2011 Grad Fair this week to learn about all things commencement and finally be able to answer my mother’s questions about announcements, sashes and everything else I don’t want to think about.

After perusing the booths, which explained how to donate to the senior gift options I don’t like and how to purchase a video of the commencement ceremony,  I finally came to what I was looking for: caps and gowns.

I looked at the price tag and walked away. I’ll be wearing my robes from high school, thank you very much.

In case you haven’t been enlightened, undergraduates can rent a robe, cap and tassel for $50 from the USC Bookstore. If you want a standard sash with either the USC logo or seal (but not both!) it’s an extra $45. You can personalize a sash for a mere $75, though, and add up to eight letters before having to buy extra ones for $3 a pop. You can also add a crest for your house or organization — but that’ll be an extra $10 each.

Hopefully, you weren’t too involved around campus.

I also hope you don’t have many people who’ll want invitations. You can get 25 of those for only $59.95.

Suddenly, an already stressful day is accompanied by a stressful price tag.

And here’s the kicker: If you want to buy a robe, prices begin at $135. A cap with tassel is an extra $35.

Granted, sashes and announcements and owning the robe you worked so hard to wear are extras. You don’t need them. You can do commencement on a budget and get the basics.

But should we be forced to pinch so many pennies when we’ve already given so much to USC?

Other schools offer better deals. You can rent a robe and buy a cap, tassel and stole at Stanford for $54. And at UCLA, you can get a cap, gown and degree tassel to keep for $35. You can get 25 announcements for $40. You get a sash for $35.

Wait, you want me to buy a class ring or a yearbook, too? I’d love to, but all my money is going toward my dowdy attire.

Everyone is quick to congratulate us on our upcoming accomplishment. Graduating from college — especially from one like USC — is no small feat, and our families are preparing for the trek to Los Angeles to celebrate what we have achieved.

This is supposed to be one of the most memorable events of our lives, one we are supposed to be glad to be a Trojan and thankful for our years at USC. It’s beginning to seem more like a last-ditch effort by the USC Bookstore to squeeze out a few more bucks from us before we leave.

Ultimately, the bookstore needs to remember its patrons. The university is quick to tout the fact that 60 percent of students at USC receive some type of financial assistance, but that isn’t reflected by the high prices in bookstore aisles. Getting a cut on tuition is very much appreciated, but that doesn’t help me pay $50 to rent a robe for a day.

Some of us work while taking classes. Some of us don’t have credit cards, or only use them for emergencies. Some of us are paying for our own graduation materials rather than sending the bill to our parents. And some of us are just happy enough that our parents will be able to take time off work and fly across the country to be with us on May 13 — we feel guilty hitting them up for hundreds of dollars on top of that.

I guess that means some of us will be wearing our robes from high school after all.

Kate Mather is a senior majoring in print and digital journalism.

5 replies
  1. Graduate victim
    Graduate victim says:

    I feel ya Kate! Don’t even get me started on the Master’s degree costs to rent a robe & all that jazz. Herf Jones, the company that’s handling all the commencement stuff did my high school’s & it still wasn’t nearly as much. I just graduated from The Ohio State University and paid a full $28 to own my cap & gown. I got 150 announcements for a little more than $150. Try that with USC’s prices, 100 announcements will cost you $240! And we had 6 different campus bookstores that sold all your Grad supplies, not just this monopoly of a bookstore one-stop-shop mess. As if we weren’t paying enough already.
    Like you said this is “a last-ditch effort by the USC Bookstore to squeeze out a few more bucks from us before we leave.”
    Highway robbery.

  2. SCMom
    SCMom says:

    Totally agree! I had to pony up hundreds last May for our daughters graduation. Even though we were very proud of her we felt obligated and guilted into buying everything so she would not be left out. On top of that a 3 hotel nights, other family members coming to the event, dinner out, etc. Somehow they should work the fee’s into the final years tuition so its spread out or covered by loans etc. Good luck in May and be proud of all you have accomplished.

  3. M1k3 Vx
    M1k3 Vx says:

    Right On!

    Even though this is our school and opportunities better than at other schools in the area, we mustn’t keep our mouths closed when such outright greedy practices take place. Even professors, tenured professors, have major grievances with the bookstore.

    $200 for something we’re only wearing once is not entirely worth it. Sure, there is great sentimental value but there is so much one can do with that money…like eat!

    Thanks for the article, I just hope more students will appreciate your work.

  4. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    ~$150 / >$200,000 = <.00075

    Paying less that .075% of what your education has already cost doesn't seem all that terrible. Try putting things in context.

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