U.C. Merced Commencement Cost

July 2, 2009 10:19:02 PM PDT
U.C. Merced says the cost of its commencement ceremony in the spring has ballooned to more than one million dollars. The university held a much larger graduation that originally planned because of the keynote speaker ... First Lady Michelle Obama. Michelle Obama's commencement speech at U.C. Merced may have been priceless to some seniors. But now the price tag is in, and the university says the ceremony cost just over one million dollars. That's ten times more than graduation was expected to cost before the first lady signed on ... and about 300 thousand dollars more than the initial estimate after she accepted the invitation.

Patti Waid said, "Originally we were estimating about 700 thousand, but that was a very rough estimate, and there were a lot of details still to be hammered out."

Some of the additional expenses included the jumbotrons, special stage, and thousands of chairs ... as well as added security and transportation costs. But university officials say tax-payers will not foot the bill. Instead the money will come from a variety of discretionary funds and donations, including a 500 thousand dollar contribution from the office of the U.C. President. Many students say having the first lady on campus was worth every penny because it put U.C. Merced on the map.

Rosa Sanchez said, "We got to see her come to U.C. Merced since it's a new school and it was a meaningful thing for our students who graduated, so I think it was worth it."

But Others Disagree.

Andrew Ladenheim said, "U.C. Merced wastes so much money on trivial posturing and Michelle Obama although she's a great speaker and it was great to have her, it just wasn't worth the money."

University officials point out Mrs. Obama's visit also contributed an estimated one million dollars back into the local economy thanks to booked hotel rooms and packed restaurants. And they say the national attention it brought was invaluable.

"The commencement at U.C. Merced was historic. It was extremely gratifying for our students. It built pride not just here on campus but throughout the region. And there are long term benefits for the campus and the region to come," said Waid.

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