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Award to alleviate regalia cost

For students like Sherry Early, panic was the first emotion felt when she found out she had to pay more than $700 to purchase a commencement gown, hood and tam.

“You kind of don’t start to think about that stuff until you start to graduate,” said Early, a doctoral student graduating in December. “I really wish I would have known walking in, because then I could have been more intentional about saving.”

Pam Oler, a sales manager at the University Bookstore, is in charge of regalia orders and said she sends out an email to all the doctoral students who apply for graduation. The deadline to purchase regalia for the December ceremony is Oct. 28.

“It explains how they go about placing a rental order or how to purchase [regalia],” she said. “Most rent because it’s expensive.”

Whether renting or purchasing, students may be able to get help with graduation through Graduate Student Senate.

GSS is offering an award for the first time this year to help students pay for regalia.

“There were graduate students not participating because they couldn’t afford to purchase regalia to walk,” said Martha Schaffer, vice president of the Graduate Student Senate.

For doctorate students, purchasing regalia costs $769 not including tax, possible shipping and without taking off the 10 percent graduate student discount, Oler said. To rent regalia, it costs students about $170.

“We’re right in line with all the other colleges,” Oler said. “The gowns are handmade.”

The reason for the expense is because the gowns are handmade with special piping, the University seal, University brown and velvet fabric, Oler said. The design and details were chosen by a previous president, she said.

Lingxiao Ge, GSS president, said she’s not sure how many students the award will be able to help, but she’s hoping about two to three students will benefit from it for each graduation ceremony.

The award is open to anyone to apply— master’s and doctorate students— but will be awarded based on financial need.

To apply, students can fill out the application through OrgSync. They must write an essay explaining why they need help affording regalia and why attending the commencement ceremony is important to them.

Applications are due Friday and the awards will be announced toward the end of the following week, Schaffer said.

Schaffer is part of the committee who will select the award recipients and said she thinks “the ceremony is an important part of the transition from graduate school to professional life or to this graduate school to another.”

“It promotes a sense of community and belongingness. It’s kind of a send off, for many students it’s an important event in their lives,” she said.

Students may not be able to afford regalia because of the time the expense comes at, Schaffer said. For example, during the period they can purchase regalia, they may also be moving, traveling and paying the graduation fee, she said.

“Usually by that point everyone has stretched their budget as far as they can stretch it,” Schaffer said.

Students also may need to purchase regalia for their future careers. For example, if they are going into higher education, they will need to wear it three or four times a year for the ceremonies at the University they work for.

They can purchase regalia as alumni, but there’s no discount as there is for students, Oler said.

“I encourage them to go out and watch one of the commencement ceremonies online if they’re having second thoughts about cost,” Oler said. “I think they need to see the grandeur of it, that everyone is dressed the same and it looks really cool.”

So far one person has purchased regalia for the December ceremony, but there’s still time for the other 36 students to rent or purchase theirs.

“It’s part of the package to be able to wear that gown and not walking doesn’t take away from your degree or what you’ve achieved, but walking is kind of the cherry on top of your six-year ice cream sundae,” Oler said.

Walking in the commencement ceremony is important to Early and will symbolize her education coming full circle.

“Up until that point it’s all been academic— you get to blend that academic and personal,” she said. “You’re a whole person, not just a student.”

Early got help from her family, but other students may not be able to, or may not discover the cost in time.

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