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The Daily Tar Heel

Caps, gowns and empty wallets: graduation leads to unexpected costs

College graduation has become an expensive milestone in one’s life. Many people forget certain costs, such as those of a cap and gown.

College graduation has become an expensive milestone in one’s life. Many people forget certain costs, such as those of a cap and gown.

The class of 2018’s diplomas may arrive with a hefty price tag this year. Just as many of the graduating seniors’ time paying college tuition is coming to a close, the traditions and regalia associated with graduation pose a financial burden in itself.

Diploma frames from the student stores begin at $165, and prices can reach a maximum of $275 before taxes. The cap and gown regalia begin at $59.99 for the basic undergraduate student cap and gown and go up to $89.99 for the deluxe package, which also comes with a stole. Masters and doctorate regalia cost $69.99 and $79.99, respectively.

“I felt obligated and kind of expected to buy the regalia, so I did, but I’m still mad about it,” senior Rachel Maguire said. “Namely how much it cost and the fact that the University could afford to give us our cap and gowns for free like (University of North Carolina Wilmington) does.”

Eric Johnson, assistant director of Policy and Communications for The Office of Scholarships & Student Aid, said there is not a specific amount in the aid budget for graduation items. These costs would likely fall under the miscellaneous and personal category of expenses.

“We just want to make sure you get the diploma,” Johnson said.

The offices of Undergraduate Education and Institutional Research & Assessment, however, are providing an opportunity for students to earn credit at the student stores for purchasing graduation regalia. The offices reached out to students with at least 70 percent of their general education requirements completed. If students elected to participate in three computerized tests to assess communication, critical thinking and quantitative literacy, they can earn a $60 coupon toward the regalia.

Maguire said there was external pressure to buy this regalia despite its price tag. She purchased the deluxe package.

“Because everyone was buying them and since everyone was buying a stole, I felt like it was necessary for me as well,” Maguire said. “And in buying one I probably similarly pressured friends who were considering not buying a stole.”

These unofficial costs of graduation do not end with the event’s regalia. Students with families who must travel significant distances to attend the graduation are posed with the additional cost of housing and food when they visit Chapel Hill. For two guests, hotels in the area typically range from $150 to $500 a night, due to limited availability during graduation weekend.

For students like Carlos Mendiola, graduation weekend may be the first time their parents visit campus.

“I have to worry about all (of the regalia) costs, plus what it will take to bring my parents here for the first time ever,” Mendiola said. “I emailed (Carolina) Housing to see if they could spare one room for two to three days for my parents since they will be empty, and they said no. Talk about catering to first-generation students.”

Mendiola echoed Maguire's sentiments about the pressure to conform to the norm.

“But I’m too poor to care,” he said.

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