What students at CPP can expect to spend on graduation

By Reyes Navarrete, May 14, 2024

Tory Johnson is a graduating animal science student, and this fall marks the final chapter of years of hard work toward earning her bachelor’s degree. As a transfer student from Colorado State University, her previous credits did not transfer over, setting her back a year. Now, after working toward her degree, joining the animal livestock show team and being admitted to veterinary school, the finish line of walking across the stage during Commencement will be the end to her academic journey at Cal Poly Pomona.

The last thing students like Johnson did not consider were the hidden costs of graduating. 

“There is an extra $59 that you have to pay for graduation, which was honestly kind of ridiculous in my opinion,” Johnson said. “Because once you apply for graduation, my advisor told me, ‘Oh, you’re going to owe this,’ and I’m like, OK why am I paying $59 to just walk across the stage? I get you have to pay the people working (the Commencement), but that should be included in your tuition because I’m already paying so much. So that was a little bit frustrating.”

In addition to the graduation application fee, buying the cap and gown regalia is essential to walk for Commencement. According to the Commencement webpage’s FAQ section, all graduates must wear approved CPP regalia. Standard clothing options consist of an all-black cap and gown with a tassel and a color-coded sash based on the graduate’s assigned college.

According to Brian Alexander-Fetterman, assistant director of general merchandise at the Bronco Bookstore, students could theoretically wear a cap, gown, no tassel, no sash and they would most likely not be prevented from walking. 

The regalia sold at the Bronco Bookstore comes from Jostens, a company that sells products such as yearbooks, graduation attire and other academic milestone products. The most basic bachelor’s 

caps, gown, hood and tassel retail at $80 before tax. The master’s bundle  retails at $105 and the doctorate at $130. 

Johnson opted to buy a grad pack offered by the Bronco Bookstore in February for the convenience of having all she needed for Commencement. 

The $350 package included a cap, gown, hood, tassel, an alumni shirt, alumni jacket and a frame for the diploma.

According to Clint Aase, director of the Bronco Bookstore, students do not have to buy from them. Although, options from official retailers would be less cost-efficient and less convenient, according to Aase, citing their regalia is 20% lower than other local California State Universities.

“One of the things we do is we compare our prices against other universities, especially the neighboring universities like say Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach and our prices are significantly lower than the other local CSUs charge,” Aase said.

Rental gowns are also at a higher cost due to shipping and might also come with some quality control issues such as zippers that don’t work. 

“If you think about it, all of the big regalia companies are in the Mid to Eastern United States, so they would have to be put on a truck and shipped out here,” Aase said. “Then they would have to be put on a truck and shipped back. They would have to be cleaned and they would have to have a storage facility. So, the one-time gowns are the most cost-efficient.”

Abdel Somera-Fuentes, a graduating pure mathematics student, did not want to walk initially and after some encouragement from his family, Somera-Fuentes opted to purchase the most basic bachelors’ regalia, which cost around $87 after taxes.

Alternatives to the Bronco Bookstore or directly from Jostens could vary. Outlets such as Amazon and Etsy could offer similar products but with varying costs and, most importantly, quality. 

According to Aase, deviations from the standard CPP regalia will most likely stick out compared to appropriately dressed counterparts during commencement.

“I mean, there’s some students out there that want to do the minimum, but 100% of the families we talked to don’t feel that way,” Aase said. “Students want to celebrate this day, and if you think about the other event that you’ll go to in your life that is similar to a graduation is a wedding. And if you’re going to participate in a wedding, there’s no way that you’re going to be able to find a complete outfit whether you’re buying it or renting it for $80.”

For students who might find the expense too much but still want to be able to participate in Commencement, the Care Center offers cap and gown assistance.

According to Aase, the students he meets are adding to their regalia more than minimizing it. Johnson, excited about graduating, plans to decorate her cap with the phrase “Holy cow. I’m graduating!” out of construction paper and paint.

The cost of graduation can total more than just the cap and gown, since a myriad of additional flair can be purchased and added to the outfit. Not to mention the expenses families may be planning for celebrations and graduation gifts. For Johnson, her family plans to get together and possibly go out for a dinner celebration.

“One of the best things about working at a university is being able to participate in graduation and I’ve done over 20 of them and it doesn’t get old,” Aase said. “It is an event that some people are on the fence about whether or not they want to actually participate and walk, and I have never talked to anybody that regretted it.”

Feature Image courtesy of Victoria Mejicanos 

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