UC Berkeley students pay to attend their own commencement but can invite more guests

2013 Commencement at Memorial Stadium
Kevin Foote/Senior Staff
2013 Commencement at Memorial Stadium

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April 30 is the last day to purchase general commencement tickets. If you’re planning on going, prepare to get your wallets out because tickets are $10 each, and of course, everyone and his mom (and your mom) wants to be at your graduation.

To add another cost: Graduates have to pay $10 for their own tickets. That’s right — at UC Berkeley, you have to actually pay to attend your own commencement ceremony, even though, according to the Commencement at Cal website, your name will not even be called at the campus-wide ceremony. It’s one thing to pay for your parents, siblings and everyone who decides to associate with you on the biggest day of your life (so far). But to have to pay to attend the ceremony yourself? We know. It’s the worst.

So where does this money go?

“To absorb the cost of commencement,” said Lila Blanco, director of external relations and the Office of Protocol at the university. “It’s huge.”

According to Blanco, the sale of tickets helps offset the costs of putting on a big event at California Memorial Stadium. Expenses include renting the stadium, building a venue for the stage and food, flowers, snacks for kids, security and parking and transportation. #momoneymoproblems

This is the second time that general commencement has been held at the stadium. Nancy Pelosi will be this year’s commencement speaker, which is a huge deal whether or not you like her. Also, Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, a Clog favorite, will be speaking at his first commencement since becoming chancellor of UC Berkeley.

With all of that fanfare, maybe $10 is a bargain?

It’s not a brand new thing to charge for commencement tickets. Blanco said UC Berkeley has been charging for the ceremony over the last 10 years that she’s been working here.

Other Northern California colleges and universities, such as UC Davis and St. Mary’s College in Moraga, do not require their graduates pay to attend commencement, according to graduating seniors from those schools. Students participating in Stanford’s commencement also do not have to pay to attend their ceremony. #Hisssss

Despite this, graduates don’t necessarily get to host an unlimited number of guests for free. While other UC campuses give free tickets, the limit on the number of tickets graduates may obtain is lower. While UC Berkeley students can purchase up to 20 commencement tickets, schools such as UCLA limit their graduates to four free guest tickets, and they can pay for a certain number of additional tickets, depending on their department, for $12.

So although UC Berkeley graduates must pay for their commencement tickets, this also means graduates can invite many more of their family members and friends.

If UC Berkeley graduates really do not want to pay to attend their own commencement, they will have to just go to their departmental commencement. But many of these ceremonies, in which the graduates get their name called and might actually be visible to their adoring fans (i.e. parents and begrudging siblings), also charge admission for guests. For example, the English department charges $10 per person while the department of environmental science, policy and management charges $2 per person.

Graduates may also receive a few free tickets, depending on their department. While free guest tickets are limited, many departments at UC Berkeley let graduates — appropriately dressed in cap and gown, of course — attend their department’s ceremonies free of charge.

What are your thoughts on purchasing tickets for general commencement? Is it better to pay and have more tickets available, or should graduates get a limited number of free tickets?

Jessica Rogness is an assistant blog editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @jessarogness.

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