Should we have to pay for our cap and gowns?

Courtesy of The Guardian
Courtesy of The Guardian

The value of knowledge is priceless. Education on the other hand does have a price, and at times, a high one. In grade school the amount of money put into school supplies and other materials may seem insignificant to the student since it is up to the parents to pay up. But as soon as students are old enough to realize the value of a dollar it becomes evident that gaining a higher education does not come cheap.

Parents have become concerned with the excessive amount of money they find themselves spending during the usual back-to-school shopping trips. Patrick Donnelly, parent of a Gold River Discovery Center student, complains about having to spend around $70 to $100 to satisfy the requirements in a classroom supply list sent out by his child’s teacher. It seems illogical to require students and their parents to spend ridiculous sums of money on supplies that the school should be able to provide.

In 2012, Assembly Bill 1575 was passed, which “prohibits a pupil enrolled in school from being required to pay a fee, deposit or other charge not specifically authorized by law.” Under this law, students in public, charter or alternative schools cannot be required to pay for any classroom supplies, such as books, lockers and uniforms, among other educational materials. Since this law was passed it has not taken effect at its full potential. Parents and other activists have taken note that school districts in California have not fully complied with these regulations, with schools continuing to send out lists of school supplies that need to be provided by the parents of students.

As activists and parents spoke out against the absurdly expensive shopping lists, school districts began providing graduation materials to those students who could not afford them or did not want to pay for them as a way to address this problem. While some argue that school budgets are already tight without having to provide graduation attire to students, schools can find sponsors, such as financially successful alumni to provide these necessities for graduating students. It only seems fair to strip students of the burden of having to pay for their cap and gowns after having to invest time and effort into their education.

Cap-and-gown packages may not seem too expensive in grade school, but along with the other senior activities, including grad night and prom, the money adds up. This problem only seems to get worse as you achieve higher education. Extending AB 1575 regulations to college students would only be fair since college students have already paid their dues. Students at any school level should be rewarded for their hard work. Students should not have to prove financial need to receive free graduation attire because we have proved to be deserving of it by being eligible to graduate. Dropping the graduation fees for every student regardless of financial status would be a fair trade for students’ hard work and dedication.

Future UCR alumni agree that the price for graduation attire and accessories is too high. Fourth-year Angie Galindo describes the $150 graduation package, including a cap, gown, sash, tassel, UCR license plate, UCR key chain, diploma frame and graduation invitations as “overpriced.”

Warsame Hassan, future UCR graduate, agrees with Perez as he states, “It is outrageous for students to have to pay for their own cap and gown after pouring thousands of dollars into the university.” As a sign of appreciation, Hassan believes “schools should provide students with a free cap and gown or at least offer students the option to rent the attire at a cheaper rate because at the price we are paying you’d think they would at least throw in a burrito.”

It does not make sense to expect students to pay exaggerated amounts of money for a cap and gown that they have worked so hard to earn and that they are only going to use for a couple of hours. Schools should provide graduation essentials as a reward for achieving such an important and memorable milestone of a student’s life.

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