May 15, 2013
College seniors have faced sky-high tuition costs, and many may shoulder the burden of student loans for years to come. Graduation marks the end of student fees for most -- that is, unless they attend one of several California colleges that are charging students graduation fees this year.
The Oakland Tribune reports that 15 of 23 California State University campuses plan to charge seniors a fee to graduate this year. This comes at the end of an academic career marked by tuition hikes nearly every year for many students, in addition to rising miscellaneous fees. Many students have expressed frustration with the charge, and some, including a number of San Jose State University students, are skipping for-fee festivities in protest.
"You've worked so hard," San Jose State University graduate Rebecca Krueger told The Oakland Tribune. "It's this time of honor and celebration, and you're hit with this fee just to participate. You feel nickel-and-dimed."
According to CBS SF Bay Area, SJSU is not charging students for participating in the larger university commencement ceremony at Spartan Stadium, but there is a fee for taking part in smaller departmental events. A university spokesperson said that tuition does not cover extra event costs, like hall rental fees or catered food and drink.
"There is a fee for everything," Natalia Aldana, a Cal State East Bay communications major, told Katy Murphy of The Oakland Tribune. "I think it's really unfortunate that they have to charge students for everything they do, including graduation."
The Huffington Post reports that the California Master Plan for Higher Education requires that all auxiliary costs -- like recreational facilities and graduation -- be paid for through additional fees. While most schools across the country include graduation-related costs in their tuition fees, there are a few exceptions, including Texas A&M and Arizona State, which charge students a diploma fee.
As for how these fees are applied within California, there is a great deal of variation. According to The Oakland Tribune's article on insideBayArea.com, UC Berkeley graduates are not charged a separate fee to graduate, but must pay $10 per commencement ticket, including one for themselves. Cal State East Bay graduates pay $49 while those at San Francisco State pay $100. Many students were not aware of the fees beforehand. It seems the fees were not widely announced, and even the Legislative Analyst's Office higher education specialist Judy Heiman had never heard of them.
"I do wonder why they chose to do it that way," Heiman told The Oakland Tribune.
Though some students said they were confused or upset by the fees, others are shrugging them off as yet another college expense, and only a one-time charge at that.
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing," Cal State East Bay graduating senior told The Oakland Tribune before sitting for his graduation photos, which also require a fee. "In the long run, it's OK."
Compiled by Aimee Hosler
"College Graduation Fees Instated At California Universities," huffingtonpost.com, May 13, 2013, Aaron Sankin
"College graduation fees leave California graduates grumbling," insidebayarea.com, Oakland Tribune, May 13, 2013, Katy Murphy
"Most Cal State University Campuses Now Charging A Fee To Graduate," sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com, May 13, 2013