The Plattsburgh State College Store charged $31.35 at the Tuesday, March 29, Cardinal Spring Graduation Expo and raised the price to $41.35 in the store for undergraduate caps and gowns from now until commencement, and PSUC students are currently enjoying the low cost of their regalia.
PSUC College Store Textbook Manager Laura Patno said the caps and gowns were discounted to give students incentive to attend.
“They (had) tables set up for different things, making sure people have everything ready,” Patno said. “It’s just an incentive to get them to come and get things taken care of early.”
PSUC set its prices for caps and gowns at a lower price point than other colleges. Washington State University’s graduating students paid $47.94 to rent caps and gowns as of March 30, 2015, USA Today reported. WSU also set a deadline by which its students must sign up to graduate or pay more than double that cost: $116.
However, that deadline does not exist at PSUC.
SUNY Albany students pay $49.98 for undergraduate regalia, and master’s students must pay $87.98.
SUNY Fredonia, however, offers packages. Undergraduate students can buy a cap, gown, tassel, collar and five graduation announcements for $57.55, while master’s students can purchase a cap, gown, tassel and hood for about $87.
Patno said PSUC students don’t need other accessories that were sold at the expo to graduate — such as rings, announcements and frames. However, students walking at commencement must either purchase or rent their regalia or borrow one from a friend or family member.
Graduate students have another concern: custom tailoring, a defining characteristic of graduate regalia. PSUC graduate students must pay about $70 to rent a cap, gown, tassel and hood.
Patno said graduate regalia costs about $400. She said it’s a “finer quality” fabric, but the College Store does not allow master’s graduates to purchase it due to the high price point.
“The students would not prefer it, and with staff being small, it would be a burden on the store for all of these students to have to come in for measurements,” Patno said of students buying graduate regalia.
PSUC President’s Office Chief of Staff Keith Tyo said graduating students who are in the military or reserves are allowed to wear formal military dress uniforms in lieu of traditional caps and gowns.
For caps and gowns, Tyo said his office’s budget wouldn’t be able to accommodate the number of graduating students at the end of each semester. Therefore, PSUC students must either pay or borrow proper attire.
Tyo said over 800 students on average participate in Spring Commencement, and during the winter, that number tends to be “about half.”
“We have a very small amount of money — several thousand dollars — that we use to put on commencement, and we also rely on other departments to pitch in,” Tyo said.
Tyo said PSUC introduced a plan to eliminate the Winter Commencement as a cost-cutting measure due to budgetary constraints about eight years ago.
However, PSUC’s Student Association stepped up and decided to help fund the ceremony at that time, but that is not the case today.
“The Student Association no longer helps fund Winter or Spring Commencement,” SA Vice President of Finance Ryan Ferguson said.
Tyo said the SA did this particularly for international students, who pay higher fees than New York state residents.
“Many international students try to get their degree(s) in 3 1/2 years,” he said. “The SA felt it was inappropriate for (students) who are graduating in December to have to wait until spring — another six months — to participate in a graduation ceremony.”
PSUC master’s adolescent education and history major Veronica Marchello ordered her cap and gown online.
She said she wished she could buy a set of master’s regalia instead of having to rent it.
However, after learning about the cost, she quickly changed her mind, saying that it was unaffordable.
PSUC TV/video production and audio-radio production major Anthony Gonzalez also attended the expo. He said it wasn’t the price of caps and gowns, but the frame price, that took him by surprise. He said the frames at the expo were at least $90.
He said the price of academic regalia should be included in seniors’ tuition, so that graduating seniors can rest easy as they near their graduation.
“That way, a person just needs the right size — they don’t have to go to the expo,” Gonzalez said. “If you don’t graduate from this institution, you get your money back. It makes perfect sense.”
Patno said students who feel caps and gowns should be free have voiced their concerns.
“We try to manage it as best we can,” Tyo said.
However, Tyo said that, while PSUC faculty and staff work to keep regalia costs low, it is not financially feasible for the college to foot that bill.
“For us to pay for gowns and things like that, it’s just astronomical.”
Email Tim Lyman at firstname.lastname@example.org