The Hidden Fees of Graduation at The Catholic University of America

by Paige Wearmouth

For most undergraduate seniors, recent preparation for graduation exercises have included purchasing caps and gowns, taking senior portraits, and buying tickets for senior week events. While some of these costs are optional, such as photos and senior week tickets, each and every graduating senior was charged an additional graduation fee of $150 through their accounts on Cardinal Station.

According to a representative of the university’s Office of Enrollment Services, this graduation fee is not collected in relation to the cost of the actual commencement and diploma proceedings.

“The graduation fee is used to underwrite the cost of processing candidates for graduation, commencement exercises and related activities.  Participation in the University and/or school exercises is afforded at no additional cost to graduates and their guests.  The fee does not cover academic regalia,” the representative said.

The Office of Enrollment Services said that this fee is not optional and automatically charges each graduating student.

“It is recognized that not all students will use the benefits made available by the fee, but the services supported by the fee are available to all graduating students,” the representative for Enrollment Services said.

According to William Jonas, Executive Director of Events and Conference Services at Catholic University, the budget for the services covers tent, chair, and stage rentals and audio equipment, as well as other miscellaneous expenses for both the main ceremony at the Basilica and the separate diploma ceremonies for each school. Additionally, the university pays for travel and hospitality of the commencement speaker(s), but does not choose a speaker who charges for their services at the graduation.

“While we do pay for expenses incurred by our speakers, we do not pay an honorarium for the appearance.  We identify speakers who appreciate the honor of being asked to speak at our ceremony, and who understand that we do not pay a speaker’s fee,” Jonas said.

In regards to fees for caps, gowns, and assorted regalia, Jonas said that the university believes it is more time-effective to have students purchase rather than rent. He said the pricing difference between the two options is not much different.

According to Jonas, within the last several years the university changed from a rental program to a purchase program “to eliminate the inconvenience to graduates of having to stand in a line at the bookstore right after commencement to return a gown.”

“We offer souvenir regalia–a keepsake that students retain as reminder of their alma mater,” Jonas said.

Stephanie Schmitt, a senior English and politics double major, said she thought the university should be more upfront about these charges for graduation.

“With the extra money I’ve spent in the past month on Senior Week and cords, it would have been easier to budget had I known we would have to pay $97 for our cap and gowns and an extra $150 simply to graduate,” Schmitt said.

Graduation exercises for students of The Catholic University of America will take place on Saturday, May 13th at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. At the time of publishing, the commencement speaker has yet to be announced.

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