Spring graduates reflect on final college expenses

While renting the 38-dollar cap and gown is the only mandatory expense for walking in the Commencement Ceremony, add-ons such as tassels, diploma accessories, travel expenses for loved ones and last-minute Davis memorabilia purchases have many grads wondering about the actual cost of graduation.

Cap and gown provider Herff Jones suggested that students purchase one of two packaged options instead of simply renting their caps and gowns.

“If you spend $90 for a grad pack, you get the cap and gown, but also extra tassels, a diploma cover and a one-year Cal Aggie Alumni Association (CAAA) membership,” said Kevin Hadidjaja, a fourth-year exercise biology major. “The CAAA membership [played a part in why I bought the package]. It allows me to still be part of [the] Davis community and to support the association.”

The 90-dollar package provides a middle-of-the-road approach for graduation purchases. The pack contains more substance than the plain cap and gown but less fanfare than some of the more expensive options.

“The next package up from [the 90-dollar package] is the 263-dollar package. It’s got announcements, thank you cards, two tassels and an extra fancy frame. I didn’t choose to get it because I’m a poor college student,” said Ruben Almanza, a fourth-year environmental policy analysis and planning major.

Almanza’s parents offered to purchase the more expensive package for him, but he declined.

“I don’t have a need for it; I’m not one to send out greeting cards,” Almanza said. “And I already feel like paying to wear a gown that’s been used a hundred times is pointless, so I wouldn’t want to pay more.”

Some see the packages as a way for the University to make those last few dollars off of college students before they graduate.

“You’re paying to wear something for a couple hours. The picture frames and tassels are overpriced. Graduation is a business, not a celebration,” said Christine Higgins, a fourth-year political science and history double major.

Class rings are other add-on expenses for graduates, but those interviewed agreed that they were not intriguing options.

“I’m not a ring guy, so I didn’t look into it, but that being said, I haven’t heard about anyone in my class getting one, either,” Almanza said.

Other than paying for graduation attire and accessories, students have to factor in travel expenses for their relatives and are becoming creative to keep costs down.

“My family is driving in, and they are staying in my apartment. [It was easier than dealing with] jacked up prices for Davis hotels, which filled up a few months ago,” Hadidjaja said.

Others already knew to expect to pay the full price in order to have family present for the big moment.

“My parents are flying up from SoCal to see me graduate. I tried to tell them not to, that is wasn’t worth the cost, but they thought otherwise,” Almanza said.

Almanza went on to say that his parents also insisted that he get senior portraits through the company that Davis’ commencement homepage links to.

“It’s $25 to get one picture with a cap and gown and one picture with my own clothes on,” Almanza said. “I know as soon as I get in there that they are going to try and charge me for more pictures.”

While some feel that these last-minute purchases and accessories are worth the money, others feel that graduation expenses are impractical.

“All of the stuff for graduation is marked up. Getting the diploma framed is expensive. I’d much rather get a 20-dollar frame from Target and hang it on my wall,” said Michelle Rugg, a fourth-year civil and environmental engineering major.

Rugg’s ideal price point is much lower than available for purchase through the University. According to the Herff Jones and UC Davis Bookstore websites, official diploma frames cost anywhere from $100 to $200.

Those who want to display their degree at a lower price can make use of a diploma cover, which is sold at the Davis Bookstore. At the listed price of $12.95, the vinyl and satin cover is just right for Zac Dillow, a fourth-year mechanical engineering major.

“I’ll probably buy [the diploma cover],” Dillow said. “My diploma deserves a nice presentation. The last thing I want is my degree thumbtacked on my wall. I’m proud of my work here at Davis, and I want to display that.”

As graduation nears, students are keen to stay economically savvy and keep in mind that while graduation is a milestone event, it doesn’t necessarily mean it needs to be a milestone expense.

“Our graduation has a different vibe. Instead of this really hyped-up celebration, it’s more of a pat on the back and a ‘good job, you did it,’” Dillow said. “I feel like while there is a lot being offered as far as merchandise goes, [graduation] isn’t as big of a deal [to future graduates] as it could be.”

HANNAH KRAMER can be reached at features@theaggie.org.

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