UCF students forgo pricey graduation ceremonies
The cost to rent graduation attire is off-putting to UCF Knights, so much so that some are flipping this traditional practice on its head by choosing not to walk at their commencement ceremony.
Compared to other major Florida universities, UCF graduates pay a higher price for their caps, gowns and tassels. After tax, undergraduate students at UCF pay $85.15; at Florida State University they pay $45.15; at the University of Florida they pay $48.76; and at the University of South Florida they pay $80.26. Each of these universities use Herff Jones as their rental company for graduation attire.
“I’d rather save my money,” said Sam Parker, a UCF junior and technology and design major.
The $85.15 purchase includes five ceremony tickets, a black cap and gown and a gold tassel. Graduates also receive an alumni keychain, giving them a 15 percent discount on merchandise at both UCF bookstores.
To ensure the dignity of the ceremony, graduates wear official regalia available through the UCF Bookstore and online through Herff Jones. Those who choose to rent their garb elsewhere will not receive their five tickets and will not be permitted to walk at graduation.
“If you order a gown online, it might not fit you the way it’s supposed to,” said Madison Jacoves, a UCF Bookstore employee. “Before students walk across the stage, they are checked to make sure that they have the correct cap, gown and tassel. Each gown has a UCF seal in the top left corner, and they’re also a lot thicker than an average gown.”
UCF alumnus Matthew Yates, a philosophy major who graduated in May, said the stringent graduation policy deterred him from participating in his ceremony. Yates said he was reluctant to pay the required $85.15 for his ceremonial garments and to make a second trip to the UCF Bookstore to pick up his tickets during the ticket-pickup window.
“Your diploma is sent to you by mail whether you choose to walk or not. There wasn't any practical reason for me to go,” Yates said.
While current students like Parker and former students like Yates are willing to go against the grain to save money, many Knights have begrudgingly paid and will continue to pay the $85.15 to take part in graduation.
In May, Julie Deslauriers’ parents watched with pride as their daughter walked across the stage in the CFE Arena and accepted her diploma. After spending four years working toward her bachelor’s degree in biology, the UCF alumna said she could not imagine herself choosing not to walk.
“Commencement is a wonderful celebration of hard work and determination that should be enjoyed by graduates and their families,” Deslauriers said. “The feeling of joy when you walk across the stage is priceless. It’s also a time to appreciate those people who worked hard to support your college experience.”
After the ceremony, Deslauriers and other UCF graduates lined up outside the UCF Bookstore to return their cap and gown, which is due back by 5 p.m. on graduation day.
If bachelor’s students fail to return their attire on time, they will be charged $40. Undergraduates who do not return their cap and gown will be charged a $400 fee.
Lubba Wintzer, a UCF senior majoring in international and global studies, said UCF students are charged enough as it is to rent the appropriate gradation attire. The additional fees are just the icing on the cake, Wintzer added.
“We spend four years paying for tuition and books,” Wintzer said. “This just seems like an extra pull to get the last penny out of students.”
Shana Medel is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Email her at ShanaM@CentralFloridaFuture.com.