The Daily Illini

The price tag of graduation

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The price tag of graduation

Colleen Romano

Colleen Romano

Colleen Romano

By Melissa Niemiec, Assistant Editor Special Sections

After spending thousands of dollars on tuition, rent, textbooks and various fees, come graduation time a student can breathe a sigh of relief knowing they don’t have to pay the University another cent, right?

Not quite yet. Along with graduation comes a variety of expenses. Proper clothes must be bought or borrowed for the ceremony, a nice dinner may follow and photos and announcements come next.

Allie Susralski, senior in LAS, noted how she didn’t mind the expenses.

“I think because graduation is a special occasion it isn’t too expensive. Spending the money to buy a new dress or go out for dinner to celebrate is OK because it’s a special day,” Susralski said.

Even if a student forgoes fancy dinners and nice clothes, they still have to pay. A $50 cap and gown rental is required by the University if the student wants to walk. Susralski added she did think the cap and gown rental was “a little high” and that she would have rather used that money to celebrate with her family.

Both Susralski and Kathleen Munoz, senior in LAS, agreed that they feel like the company that rents the caps and gowns is taking advantage of the fact that these items are required for students. Munoz advised others to “watch out for the add-ons that they try to get you to buy,” referring to packages containing graduation announcements and other materials sold by the website.

“When you click to go buy (the basic package), they make it seem like the only options are the gap and gown plus grad party invitations and plates and balloons and such. You have to click on a different tab in order to find the basic package,” Munoz said. “It can get very confusing.”

Money spent on graduation gifts has skyrocketed as well. According to a study by the National Retail Foundation, in 2015 graduation gift spending had reached an all-time high at $4.77 billion.

The same study concluded the average person will spend about $100 when shopping for two graduates. Adults gave $20 more on average, as parents tend to be the biggest spenders when it comes to graduation. Half of those who gave graduation gifts would do so in cash, 40 percent in cards and 13 percent in apparel, often in the form of professional clothes.

Though graduation comes with its expenses and rewards, the biggest price tag on graduates’ minds is the one that comes after the ceremony: student loan repayment. According to the Pew Research Center, two-thirds of college seniors aged 18-24 take out student loans. That means two-thirds will be faced with debt when they graduate.

Most of the time, however, recent grads don’t need to start making payments right away. According to the Department of Education, most loans have a grace period during which the post-grad does not have to make any payments, but the loan still accrues interest. Since the average monthly loan payment is $351, this grace period may be a lifesaver for students who do not have a job lined up for post-graduation.

Even with that extra cushion, loans weigh heavily on students. Many students choose to live at home for a few years to handle their financial situation.

“It’s kind of like you’re stuck afterwards because you can get a job and start paying off those loans, but its like you’re trading off whether you want to move out on your own and have those loans with you for longer in your life or stay at home and try to pay them off,” said Melissa Andrikos, senior in Media.

“It is a restricting feeling and stress like they’ve never known,” Andrikos said. “It’s just a burden that really weighs on people’s emotions and wellbeing and everyday life and career goals. I don’t think my friends stop thinking about it.”

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