Editorial: Aren’t You Grad?

Editorial 4/22/19
Taylor Nguyen/THE REVIEW
The Review’s weekly editorial.

Herff Jones is a scam artist and every senior at the university is his unwitting, polyester-clad victim.

At some point this past month, each university senior graduating this semester was forced to fork over ninety-five dollars in order to purchase a graduation gown, cap and tassel. This price was oh-so-generously discounted from the typical cost of one-hundred dollars — if the purchase was completed before a certain date.

Other institutions, like Providence College and University of Virginia, provide graduating seniors with their regalia at no additional cost. Here, however, students incur yet another of the many hidden costs of being able to graduate. More disappointing is the fact that students must purchase this single-use regalia if they wish to attend their graduation proceedings in May.

These convocation ceremonies are the culmination of years of work and thousands of dollars, not to mention a near-constant stream of tears and anxiety. That they are only offered to those who purchase these emblems of the elitism of higher education exhibits the university’s hypocrisy with regard to claims that it puts students — and Delaware — first.

Students with a demonstrable need may be given some support from the university in order to buy the necessary regalia; this process, however, would be altogether unnecessary if the cap and gown sets cost less or were rentable for a reasonable price.

The university has the exciting opportunity to establish a precedent. It should choose to overlook the necessity of regalia for those who are not able or do not want to purchase it. Instead though, it will likely continue to uphold an outdated academic tradition that privileges wealth and status.

This is all punctuated by the insulting “graduate fair.” At this point, seniors are exhausted by the apparent need to constantly reaffirm their commitment to a university that has shown little regard for their well-being, educational value and financial obligations over the past few years.

While picking up their orders at the university bookstore, each student was forced to confront stands manned by members of the alumni association, graduation frame retailers, and — worst of all — senior gift representatives. Unsurprisingly, being peddled at by vendors after paying to be able to attend one’s graduation proceedings makes seniors all the more anxious to walk across the stage at their convocation ceremony.

All of this is to say nothing of the unsustainable nature of this process. Most seniors will only wear the gown once, then stow it away in their closet until they decide to permanently dispose of it. The university should allow and encourage students to sell their gowns back to the bookstore, which can rent them to others at a discounted price the following year.

There is something to be said about the sentimentality of a decorated graduation cap or a single overpriced stole. However, ask any senior who is even somewhat strapped for cash, and they will likely forfeit this sentimentality for, say, a twenty-five dollar refund and the opportunity to recycle the pile of artificial fabric that will otherwise litter their childhood bedroom for years to come.

Many students are graduating without one of the prestigious job offerings that the university promised them as freshmen — making it even more difficult for them to commit extra cash to graduation expenses. The false prestige of an undergraduate degree is almost as glaring as the plastic sheen of polyester grad gowns.

Editorials reflect the majority opinion of the editorial board, led this week by Alex Eichenstein. She can be reached at aeichen@udel.edu.

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  • comment-avatar

    You have a good argument here, but the last paragraph is entitled and wrong.
    The university doesn’t “promise” a job. This is the exact kind of transactional expectation you are arguing against with the robes. Just because you paid your bill and finished your degree does not mean you are entitled to a job. You should be better prepared and more likely to get a job because of the work you put in but the university promises an education. Not a job. If you feel as though your education is lacking, write that op-ed. Remember, you are more responsible for your education than your institution is. The university is responsible for the conditions and accessibility of resources, experts, instruction, YOU are responsible for showing up, doing the work, and ultimately, your achievements.

  • comment-avatar
    daFacts 10 months

    Here’s an idea – take a week off from eating out every night on Main Street on mommy’s credit card & there’s the $100! #Boom 

    • comment-avatar
      DAFACTZ 10 months

      Can’t believe you just solved the student debt crisis in one absolutely devastating blow.

  • comment-avatar
    Marshall G 10 months

    Some entrepreneur should start a business with the ragalia. Collect them all and rent them out next year.

  • comment-avatar
    Jonah 10 months

    This editorialist is tremendously confused.

    Those other schools do not “provide graduating seniors with their regalia at no additional cost.” They build it into the cost of tuition, which many students pay by using loans, which accrue interest.

    The cap-and-gown fee is not, contrary to this editorialist’s statement, a “hidden cost” at UD. It’s a “hidden cost” at those other schools. Here at UD you know exactly how much you’re paying for it, and once you’re done you’re done.

    If the school gave you the cap and gown for “free,” the cost would simply be added to your tuition payment, and you wouldn’t just pay $95. You’d pay $95 plus interest accruing between 5% and 7.6% for the lifetime of your loan. After ten years of loan payments, you would have paid between $150 and $200 for that $95 gown. If you take 20 years to pay off your loans, the gown would cost you between $250 and $400.

    I like the idea of someone buying back the gowns and re-selling them to undercut the current monopoly. However, for now, the university has chosen the least expensive of its current options, and it happens to be the option that benefits students who will have student loan debt the most.

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