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.