BY KENDRA HICKS
(WEBSTER GROVES, Mo, April 6, 2011) Last year, a cap, gown, tassel and hood were $72 for a Webster University undergrad and $84 for a graduate student before tax. The prices for graduation items have risen nine dollars this year because they are now made with a sustainable eco-friendly product, said Jeff Smithson, manager of the bookstore.
“Last year only the gown was eco-friendly — this year the hood is also,” Smithson said.
Janaye Williams, a senior broadcast major, said she doesn’t think a cap and gown that is only going to be worn once is worth $88.
“I think it is a little overpriced,” Williams said. “I wish I went to a school whose colors were blue and gold because I still have the one from high school hanging up in my closet.”
The cost of the cap and gown isn’t the only fee students have for graduation. Students with a third of their credits finished are charged a $50 degree candidacy fee to their student account. The fee offsets the cost for the cover and printing of the degree.
Williams said she was also not aware of this fee. The fee is added automatically in the student’s tuition.
“I didn’t know what it was for. I thought it was for renting the Muny or for the photographer,” Williams said.
Being a student who doesn’t have a lot of financial support from their family can be hard when trying to buy everything they think they will need for graduation.
“From an independent student’s viewpoint, it’s pricey,” said Dianna Rattanaray, senior interactive digital media major.
However, Rattanaray said she bought the most expensive graduation package through Herff Jones for $138 after tax. Rattanaray said spending all of this money is worth it even if it is only used for one day.
“To me, it represents accomplishing something that four years ago I didn’t know if I’d finish,” Rattanaray said. “After purchasing my cap and gown and trying it on at home, it gave me a sense of pride, which I deserve to be recognized for working hard in order to get my bachelor’s degree.”
Some students aren’t able to share Rattanaray’s excitement because they don’t have the money to participate in graduation.
Andrea Harper, a senior speech communication major, said she knows a lot of people who want to participate in the ceremony but can’t.
“A lot of my friends aren’t walking at graduation because of the cost alone,” Harper said.
She said a payment or rental plan for the cap and gown would be “genius” because it would help students who want to attend the ceremony but can’t.
Smithson said the Webster’s many satellite campuses are the problem with letting students rent caps and gowns.
“It would be a monumental undertaking,” Smithson said. “Students graduate from all over the country.”
He also said the quality of the cap and gown that students are buying is better quality than the rentals.
Herff Jones and Jostens are the two companies supplying Webster students with graduation announcements and class rings. Herff Jones class rings start at $392 and offers three graduation packages ranging from $130 to $102. Jostens class rings start at $299.
Richard Stoebe, director of communications for Jostens, said he and his company believe graduation is a significant event in a student’s life and the investment made in the graduation celebration is a worthwhile expense.
Stoebe gave his opinion on how students could save money on graduation costs.
“I am aware that some students “pass along” their regalia after graduation, however, we also know that it can require more effort than it’s worth,” Stoebe said.
When asked if graduation packages had gone up this year, Jostens wouldn’t confirm a number.
To keep graduates up to date about graduation, Webster’s commencement web-page has information about what time the ceremony starts, the speaker and parking.
“I have very few complaints about this university, yet the lack of information and sometimes false information put out is annoying,” said Geoffrey Littleton, a senior history major. “One would think it would be clearly visible from the connections page.”
Nancy Higgins, director of ceremonies, events and protocol, said graduation information was not only on the commencement website but also on the university’s Facebook and Twitter pages.
“Provost Schuster also sent a general letter about commencement to all graduates directing them to the Commencement website,” Higgins said.
Despite the costs, some future-graduates said they will be looking forward to the big day.
“I’m attending graduation for two reasons: my wife is making me and it really is important after working so hard to achieve a goal,” Littleton said.