The Cost of Graudation

Seniors looking to graduate after years of paying for college find themselves with a new dilemma: How to pay to leave. Many may don’t know it until the time comes, but graduation is a costly event.

The cost of graduation first starts when outgoing seniors apply to graduate. At UAA, seniors must pay a $50 fee when applying to graduate. But what is the fee actually for?

“The application for graduation fee supports DegreeWorks in a number of ways,” said Lindsey Chadwell, assistant registrar for Degree Services and Transfer Credit Evaluation & Records, in an email. “It helps us (Office of the Registrar) pay for the software itself, as well as the programming of all university and degree requirements each year and significant ongoing maintenance and support. The application for graduation fee also supports the cost of diploma paper.”

In addition to the cost of just applying to graduate students who want to walk in Commencement will have to pay even more. For Commencement, students must have a cap, gown and tassel, which all total to $40 or more depending on if the student is getting a bachelor’s gown or master’s gown and hood.

The Commencement ceremony has historically cost UAA around $50,000, which helps pay for the venue, graduate hooding ceremonies, decor, music, the sound system, event staff and videographers. University Advancement is primarily responsible for the Commencement ceremony and therefore the money comes out of their budget. Administrative Services and Degree Services also help pay for the ceremony.

While the budget for the ceremony might seem like a lot, the cost of Commencement has decreased. Bridgett Dyson, University Advancement’s special events manager who coordinates the Commencement ceremony, said this lowered cost is because the event is at the Alaska Airlines Center instead of the Sullivan Arena.

“With the budget situation we’re trying to be really fiscally responsible, so we’ve trimmed several areas like decor. The Alaska Airlines Center is actually given us a lot of opportunities to trim expenses.” Dyson said.

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Before the Commencement ceremonies were held at the Alaska Airlines Center Dyson said the venue, the Sullivan Arena, cost the university around $11,000. The Alaska Airlines Center only costs $7,500. The Alaska Airlines Center also allows University Advancement to save on decor because the Alaska Airlines Center is a newer building and less has to be done to spruce it up.

Advancement is also saving on the audio since the Alaska Airlines Center has an in-house sound system and the building was designed to have good acoustics. Advancement now only has to pay for technicians. Dyson said the budget for audio support has been cut by two-thirds at the Alaska Airlines Center.

One of the biggest costs of Commencement is the program. $7,000 was spent on the Spring 2015 Commencement program.

“It’s usually one of our biggest (costs). It’s cost a lot more in the past, but we have been able to work with our paper vendors and things like that to get that price down significantly,” Dyson said.

While the cost for the program is high, many feel that it’s well worth it.

“That’s something we hear from students that they really feel is an important keepsake from the day. We’re trying to find that fine line between being conscientious of the university’s fiscal budget situation, but also still maintaining a celebratory atmosphere for our students because they worked so hard. This is their big day and it just wouldn’t be a celebration without some of these things,” said Sarah Henning, UAA’s Public Relations and Marketing Manager.

Some other costs of graduation include the labor costs for set up. Dyson said the cost of labor varies depending on when the venue allows setup to happen. For Fall Commencement the ceremony’s setup began at 5 a.m. that same day, whereas Spring Commencement the setup can be done during normal business hours, which will allow Advancement to save some money.

A shuttle to and from the venue to overflow parking at the UAA Arts Building is also provided for graduates and their families. The service costs $600. When the ceremony was held at the Sullivan Arena the shuttle ran from the Commons to the Sullivan and cost nearly double what the shuttle service now costs.

While the total cost of graduating can seem overwhelming at times, the university has cut expenses wherever possible by moving the ceremony closer to home, allowing UAA to see its students from classrooms to Commencement.


2015 Commencement Infographic by Jay Baldwin
Graphic by Jay Baldwin