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Fresno State's student-run newspaper

The Collegian

Fresno State's student-run newspaper

The Collegian

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Opinion: Fresno State’s graduation fees add financial burden on students

The+Smittcamp+Alumni+House+decorated+for+2024+graduation.
Jacqueline Carrillo/The Collegian
The Smittcamp Alumni House decorated for 2024 graduation.

Late in the Fall 2023 semester, Fresno State’s office of the registrar emailed me with the subject line, “Apply Early for Spring 2024 Graduation!” Knowing I was eligible to apply for graduation was thrilling, but an unpleasant surprise greeted me.

“The regular filing fee is $59,” the email stated. I stopped for a second, questioning why I had to pay this amount to graduate when I already have to pay $3,489.50 a semester to attend Fresno State as a full-time undergraduate student.

Paying the filing fee wasn’t an issue, but it’s distasteful knowing students can’t possibly pay it because they have more important financial responsibilities, such as rent, food, transportation and other financial burdens to worry about.

The average student’s living expenses can range from $19,000 to nearly $29,000 per year, according to the College Board. Considering the surging costs of inflation, these numbers can vary.

Why should students be burdened with an additional filing fee on top of already pricey graduation essentials like caps and gowns, photos, announcements, sashes, and parties, especially when they’ve already put in the effort to graduate?

Juan Toledo, a Fresno State alumnus and now a San Jose State University graduate student, spent roughly $400 on his graduation in Spring 2022. In addition to graduation expenses, Toledo had other financial commitments, such as paying application fees for graduate school, which caused him uneasy feelings.

“It made me feel drained financially,” Toledo said. “I was in a situation where I was applying to graduate programs as well, so graduation costs only put more financial strain on me.”

Graduation fees cover staffing for degree audits, the cost of degree audits, printing the diploma and sending it out to the students’ home addresses.

Students are the sole reason Fresno State exists and asking for more money upon graduation, the most essential part of an educational journey, is discriminatory and shameful.

Fresno State is one of the 23 campuses in the California State University system; the $12.4 billion budget educational system prides itself on providing students with an affordable educational experience.

Most students rely on family support, personal earnings, scholarships and student loans to pay tuition and housing. In other words, students need lots of support for a successful college experience.

Student families, specifically from low-income and disadvantaged populations, can’t afford to pay such fees to watch their children walk across the stage and receive the diplomas that they earned.The median household income in Fresno in 2022 was $64,940, which was 41.0% less than the median annual income of $91,551 across California.

To solve the problem with hefty graduation fees, Fresno State should offer soon-to-be-graduates a fee waiver or reduce the filing fee. As a result, students can focus on graduation day without the stress of not knowing if they will graduate due to money.

Ashley Lauren Amaya, a fashion merchandising major, is set to graduate in May and receive her bachelor’s degree. Amaya said it would be a good feeling to have graduation fees reduced.

“I would feel great and would appreciate it if the fee was waived,” Amaya said. “It’s a huge milestone for all students to graduate. So I feel like we should be able to walk for free. Especially when we already pay tuition and need to pay for our cap and gowns.”

As a soon-to-be graduate, it is disappointing that my hard work during my educational journey is still not “enough” to graduate. Fresno State is an academic institution that must generate revenue.

Charging students unnecessarily for graduation fees is another tactic to sustain themselves as an institution, disregarding the efforts and sacrifices made by students like myself to attain our degrees.

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