It’s that time of year again — where USC seniors gather to buy caps, gowns, sashes and class rings. Grad fest, a university event that took place during Feb. 12th and 13th, is a one-stop way for these soon-to-be graduates to get all information and items related to the 2020 commencement.
However, these items don’t come at a small cost.
“How many children do I have to give up to buy one?”, asked Alex Waggoner, an international relations major. Waggoner was referring to the sashes, which must be separately bought from the cap and gown.
Seniors have the option to either rent or buy caps and gowns, with rentals starting at $69.99 and going up to around $500 for students graduating with bachelor’s degrees, depending on the package.
The basic grad pack, costing $175 for bachelor’s students, includes a USC custom gown and hood rental, 25 USC personalized announcements and envelope seals, 30 USC return address labels and a 2020 souvenir keychain tassel.
If students want to receive a diploma frame, they must purchase the windsor medallion grad pack, which is $375.94 .
Compared to USC, UCLA only provides the option for students to buy and own caps and gowns. However, the price is $32 plus tax. The price to buy and own a cap and gown at USC is $219.
Many students are alarmed by these prices. Many choose to opt out of buying the regalia and rent, instead, for the lower price. The appeal is even lower for students who don’t necessarily care for the commencement theatrics.
“I don’t really care that much about graduation. It’s more for my mom and dad,” said Waggoner.
While sashes are not required for commencement, a student is not permitted to participate in the ceremony without a cap and gown. This has caused Aisha Khan, a student studying her Masters of Planning at the Sol Price School of Public Policy, to consider whether or not she wants to walk due to the prices.
USC was unable to provide a comment before publication.
Many students at Grad Fest argued that the prices for caps and gowns should be included within the tuition.
“I think that if you’re going to charge people, even just to rent the gown, and you’re going to require it to walk, you should provide some type of assistance to low income students,” said Kathleen Mitchell, a graduate student studying planning at Price.
Mitchell argues that USC should provide an opportunity to have robes completely free if students can prove that their current financial situation does now allow them to purchase the required uniform.
Denise, an employee at Herff Jones, the company that creates the caps and gowns for USC, said she thinks the prices are reasonable due to the quality of the regalia. She declined to give her last name.
“[The caps and gowns] are specifically designed for USC. They’re not from Amazon,” Denise said.
Denise said that it’s the students who think the prices are high, while the parents are more than willing to buy the caps and gowns.
“This is the last thing [student’s] parents are willing to pay for,” she said.
Other students have found a way around not paying for the prices of a cap and gown. Akanksha Diwedy, a computer science major, said she bought her gown from a USC graduate and is planning on wearing it to commencement.
“You can buy it off of other seniors and hand it down to your junior friends after graduation,” said Diwedy.
USC’s 137th commencement will be on May 15, 2020.