By Ashley Gill, Opinion Editor

The $100 graduation fee that all graduating seniors must pay, participating in the ceremony or not, was discussed in the March 13 issue of The Mooring Mast. The article, written by reporter Genny Boots, examined where the money goes and why it is important for students to pay it.

Students are given no warning of the $100 cost to apply to graduate from Pacific Lutheran University. They find out when they apply to graduate online and are required to pay it in order to complete the application. If students decline the fee, the application is canceled. This is especially troublesome if students are not prepared for this extra cost and have to save up or even take away from their budgets for food and rent.

“I’m fortunate to be a working student,” senior Haley Ljunggren said. “But it definitely was an inconvenience and I had zero extra cash for anything other than bills until my next paycheck.”

There was a lot of interest regarding where the money actually goes to considering we already pay so much in student fees as it is.

During an interview between writer Genny Boots and Senior Advisor to the President Kris Plaehn, the fee was explained.

“It provides some of the funding for things like printing the diplomas, having the diploma cover holders. It also provides things like paying for the Tacoma Dome, paying for those events, paying for the parking lots,” Plaehn said. “It goes to pay for those specific components of commencement.”

Initially, this is a reasonable explanation for the high graduation fee. However, I have participated in two graduation ceremonies at the Tacoma Dome and none of which required extra fees to support it. My local high school graduation took place at the Tacoma Dome, and while we had to pay for our cap and gowns, there was not an extra cost to graduate or to fund the few hours at the Tacoma Dome, parking or any other potential costs.

In fact, when I graduated from Pierce Community College in Puyallup, we not only graduated at the Tacoma Dome, but also received our brand new cap, gown, tassel and a very nice diploma cover for free. The costs were technically already paid for through our tuition costs, even though that quarter’s tuition was not any higher than any other quarters that I had paid for.

My history of graduation ceremonies fueled my curiosity and disappointment with PLU. After the news article that was published in the last printed issue of The Mast, I was angry and I felt like we were not getting the complete truth. Saying the fee covered the cost of our diploma holders and the Tacoma Dome felt like an easy and believable thing to say for those who are not local to this area and have never participated in a ceremony at the Tacoma Dome before.

There is one aspect that could explain the contradictory information from the Senior Advisor to the President, which is the fact that PLU is a private institution without any federal funding. Even if public colleges and high schools received government money to cover the cost of the Tacoma Dome and other graduation costs, that reasoning should be explained to the student body.

Students should be warned about the high graduation fee well in advance and students who do not plan to participate in the ceremony should only have to pay a small fee to cover the cost of their diploma. ◼︎

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