Graduating CSUN students continue to pay graduation fee despite cancellation of in-person commencement ceremonies


Chris Torres

Graduating CSUN students still have to pay the associated fees, even though in-person commencement ceremonies have been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shannon Carter and Jazmin Navarrete

As CSUN continues to follow social distancing guidelines, there has been a noticeable impact on the university’s programs. One of the altered programs in light of the pandemic includes the cancellation of commencement ceremonies.

While the administration plans and presents graduation alternatives, CSUN’s graduating students continue to pay the $47 graduation fee.

“We annually review the fee, but this will be an even more crucial year to assess the fees,” said Christopher Aston, the interim co-director of student development. “We will absolutely continue to look for ways in which we can support hallmark programs such as Commencement while also minimizing costs incurred by students.”

The graduation fee is allocated for three uses: $10 for the processing and delivery of the diploma, $36.25 goes to the Office of Student Involvement & Development for the planning and production of Honors Convocation and Commencement ceremonies, and 75 cents for the financial processing costs.

The administration does not financially benefit from graduation fees, according to Edith Winterhalter, the associate vice president of budget planning and management.

“The graduation fee is a designated fee that goes solely for covering the costs of commencement and does not contribute to CSUN’s overall budget at all,” Winterhalter said. “In fact, we have had to supplement commencement costs for the last few years.

In regards to the virtual graduation, the campus is currently in the process of reviewing options for how to conduct commencement ceremonies.

During Monday’s Associated Students meeting, William Watkins, vice president of Student Affairs, and Shelley Ruelas-Bischoff, the associate vice president for Student Life proposed two options for the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 Commencement and Honors Convocation Ceremonies.

The first option would be to hold off on planning efforts until in-person ceremonies are permitted at the state and local level. The advantage of this option is that it creates optimism for when graduates and their friends and families can step on to campus for a traditional in-person graduation ceremony.

However, this option also means graduates will be left waiting in a holding pattern for an undetermined amount of time until it is safe to hold public gatherings. If this were to happen, it would still be unknown as to how many students and guests would be allowed to attend.

The second option, which is recommended by the Commencement and Honors Convocation Advisory Committee, would be to plan and conduct virtual ceremonies in May 2021 for graduating students from the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 academic years. The live virtual event would consist of an “All University Commencement Ceremony” that officially awards individual degrees.

Watkins said there are currently questions about how the ceremonies will be funded and if the graduation fees will cover the cost accrued. This factor will have to be addressed if option two is selected, according to Watkins.

“As we plan virtual ceremonies for the class of 2020 and 2021, costs will be determined and we will assess whether those costs can be covered through the commencement revenue derived from the graduation fee,” Watkins said. “Once we make that determination we will know whether there is a need to address the fee with our students.”