College Commencement Fees Leave California Graduates Grumbling

Tim Goral's picture
Monday, May 13, 2013

After scrimping, borrowing and sacrificing for years to pay for college, graduating seniors are finally preparing to celebrate. But at many California public universities, you don't just pay to get in. You pay to get out.

At Cal State East Bay, there's a $45 fee to graduate. At San Francisco State, it's $100 -- $60 more than it was two years ago. Across the state, 15 of Cal State's 23 campuses charge a graduation fee -- a long-standing and once-little-noticed tack-on that is raising students' anger. This year's graduates have absorbed tuition fee hikes nearly every year since they stepped foot on campus, and now they are discovering even the diploma isn't always included in the tab.

"There is a fee for everything," said Natalia Aldana, a Cal State East Bay communications major and journalist who graduates in June. "I think it's really unfortunate that they have to charge students for everything they do, including graduation."

Even before they are declared degree-worthy, most Cal State students must pass a writing exam -- with an additional fee of up to $38. UC Berkeley graduates don't pay a separate fee to graduate, but commencement tickets cost $10 a head -- even for graduates themselves. At San Jose State, some students recently learned they'd have to pay $75 to be honored in their department's own celebration.

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