The cost of a graduate

With graduation upon us, every college graduate may be thinking the same thing: “I’m financially free!”

However, that’s hardly the case.

The University of Arizona graduation department stocks cap, gowns and stoles for students to try on and order. (Photo by: Marissa Einck)

On average, an in-state student will spend about $39,880 over the course of four years at a four-year public institution. But that doesn’t include the cost to graduate.

For the 2017-2018 school year an Arizona graduating senior will pay around $400 in graduation fees and supplementary costs—not exactly pocket change. These expenses include the cap and gown, stole, graduation application fee, diploma cover, senior pictures and cap decoration.

The University of Arizona charges a mandatory $50 application fee. According to their website, Arizona State University similarly charges $50, and an added $25 for each additional concurrent degree. At Northern Arizona University, students pay $35.

NAU is set to have at least 5,700 graduating this May.

The graduation application fee at U of A goes toward graduation planning and services.

Kelly Fitzsimmons, a December 2017 ASU graduate spent over $550 on graduation between her application fee, cap and gown, and announcements.

“I think that graduation costs should be included in our tuition,” Fitzsimmons said, “It would be easier to pay for spread out over the course of a few semesters instead of all at once.”

This years’ UA commencement is anticipated to have between 4,500 and 5,000 students participating. Additionally, the stands will be filled with 25,000-30,000 guests.

As expected, this event brings a lot of money into Tucson.

“In general, we know it brings a great deal to the overall Tucson economy with hotels and restaurants,” said Dr. Kasey Urquidez, Vice President of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs Advancement at the University of Arizona.

A price tag for a 2018 graduate. (Created by: Marissa Einck)

According to a report from Visit Tucson, last year Tucson’s hotel and resort occupancy during the month of May hit 59 percent at an average rate of $100 per night.

“I can say through constant communication with hotels and resorts that graduation is the busiest weekend in May, and a large part of the monthly gains are directly related to high occupancy over graduation weekend,” said Graeme Hughes, Vice President of Sales at Visit Tucson.

For more information on Arizona’s 2018 Commencement ceremonies, visit ASU, NAU and U of A’s Commencement websites.

Marissa Einck is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact her at

Click here for a Word version of this story and high-resolution photos.

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