I have to pay what to graduate?!

Costs of convocation should be factored in from the start

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Ben Buckley/The Peak

A post-secondary education may be the ticket to higher earning potential, but not before your institution bleeds you dry.

After you finished your last assignment, you feel free as you did the first time you coasted down a hill on your bike after getting your training wheels off. Then you apply for convocation and realize that, unless you’ve got over $100 just kickin’ it in the bank, you won’t be crossing any stage.

With the amount of student fees lumped together and tossed at us every September, you’d think the cost of convocation would be covered. Even if someone doesn’t want to cross the stage and rent regalia, my university—and most in Canada—charge students a fee to graduate.

I guess we shouldn’t be that surprised. Distance education students still have to pay gym membership fees. Health insurance is compulsory, too, unless you opt out, and even then you pay upfront and get a refund. What makes convocation any different?

I haven’t looked into whether there is a rationale behind these fees, and frankly, I don’t care. Do they argue added administration fees? Added work for the registrar’s office? I could understand if this wasn’t a regular occurrence, but these ceremonies happen twice a year without fail.

Making students foot the bill because university employees have to do work twice a year that I’m assuming is outlined in their job descriptions is asinine. That’s like a clothing store charging a service fee one week a year while they do inventory because their employees have to put in extra hours. It’s a regular element of doing business. It should be factored in from the start.

Why didn’t I plan for graduation, you ask? Shouldn’t I accept responsibility? Yes, but my school should also provide me with clear information. If you check the “apply to graduate” website, it tells you to check out the “deadlines and fees” website to find out more. The deadlines are clearly outlined, but the fees aren’t. These aren’t disclosed until you’re logged in and clutching your credit card, fighting back tears thinking about the balance you’re carrying. Only then do you discover the $30 they normally charge becomes $80 if you miss the deadline, for a total of $84.73 after tax.

‘At least it’s over,’ you think, scouring your campus email for invitations to paid research studies, contemplating checking Craigslist to see how much people will pay to kiss your feet while factoring in the cost of a pedicure. Then you receive an e-mail informing you the regalia rental cost is $30 or $157 if you want to buy the robes (‘virgin for life’ bumper stickers are extra).

What is this crap? Are graduands also secretly signed up for convocation fight club, where the first rule is you don’t talk about the fees associated with convocation fight club?

Assuming your degree takes you four years to complete, you may pay student fees up to 12 times (not to mention tuition). If the cost of convocation is $60, the least the university could do is charge you $5 a semester and not put you even deeper in the hole at the end of your debt-gree.

Rachel Braeuer works at Simon Fraser University’s The Peak, where a version of this appeared.