USC's graduation gown design and dress code have changed, according to the Office of Cultural Relations and University Events.
This year, the university added cardinal piping along the length of the gown and a band reading "USC" on the end of the sleeves, Karina Kletscher, the events coordinator for the Office of Cultural Relations and University Events, told Annenberg Media. Kletscher said graduating students will no longer be able to wear plain gowns at commencement this year.
The new cap and gown bundle rounds up to $70 dollars, a two dollar increase from last year.
The cheapest grad pack, which includes a cap, gown, tassel, 25 announcements and 25 envelopes, is $168.99 for a bachelor's degree, $185.99 for a master's degree, and $208.99 for a doctorate degree. These packages do not include diploma frame.
Kletscher said all students are only required to wear a cap and gown.
The design change was approved after USC's cap and gown vendor, Herff Jones, approached the university and said USC is the only school "at their level" that doesn't have a customized regalia for its graduation ceremony, Kletscher said.
In previous years, students could get around the costs by borrowing a cap and gown or reaching out to third parties to recreate USC's designs for a cheaper price. That's not an option anymore for graduating students.
Adam Rosen, assistant vice president for the Office of Cultural Relations and University Events, said the decision to change the dress code was influenced by aesthetic purposes.
"When you look down at a student and they're wearing just a plain robe that they could have gotten in high school versus something that's so much nicer… It's just a nicer look for everybody," Rosen said.
Rosen added that USC has not decided what will happen to students who do not adhere to the gown requirements at graduation. Annenberg Media will update this story if we get an answer from the university.
A student-run business called Clever Grads contacted USC's vendor, Herff Jones, last year and began selling gowns at a discounted price after buying them in bulk.
The fact that the USC seal is now embroidered on the gown makes it illegal for third parties to sell the robe.
Katie Bolton of Clever Grads said the business was planning on selling gowns again this year, but they have decided to sell only sashes and leis after learning about the new requirements.
"We think it's really unfair that [the school] made the design so that students really don't have options to get some for cheaper," Bolton said.
When Annenberg Media contacted Rosen about this issue, he said he was not aware of Clever Grads.
"I am not sure what would happen if they continued to sell," Rosen said.
The amount of robes that are lost or damaged has driven up the price of caps and gowns, Rosen said. About 25 percent of rented robes are not returned according to Rosen.
"We were told [by USC's supplier] that the average for U.S. is more like five to ten percent of gowns that don't return," Rosen said. "For some reason, we are higher than that."
Rosen said one of the reasons why the costs may be higher is because USC does not include the cost of caps and gowns in students' fees, unlike many other universities.
"With full cost of gowns, it's something that graduating seniors pay versus every student paying for every year as part of students' fees," he said.
While the university may be pleased with the look and feel of the new robes, graduate student Rachel Belyea doesn't think the change was necessary.
"It's ridiculous," she said. "It's just one day. It's kind of like a wedding dress or a prom dress where you are spending all this money for one thing. It's not even a full day."
Staff reporters Katherine Wiles, Diana Postolache, Victoria Doyle, Raina Singh contributed to this report.
Correction: A previous version of this post said Clever Grads is a student organization. Clever Grad is a student-run business.
This post also said Clever Grads' previous conduct is technically illegal now based on USC's licensing policies. We have clarified this statement. The fact that the USC seal is now embroidered on the gown makes it illegal for third parties to sell the robe.
Also, we said the cheapest graduation package includes a diploma frame. The cheapest package does not include a diploma frame.