The costs of graduation

I generally consider myself an intelligent person. But, somehow, graduate school makes me question that assessment.
Is is the coursework? No, not really. I feel that I am keeping up well with the classes that I am taking. I get along well with my professors, and find the work interesting, and usually enjoyable. I am maintaining a 4.0 GPA, and my family and teachers all suggest that I should consider pursuing a PhD.
Is it the stress? While it is debatable whether it can be considered intelligent to subject oneself to the necessary stresses of graduate school, part-time or full-time, with a corresponding work schedule, the stresses are acceptable, even if the difference in pay scales between a BA and an MA in English is not quite as great as I might like.

It started with the graduation fair.

My parents and I have an agreement- since they have paid for the education, they must experience the end product. Basically, I must participate in the graduation ceremony, or else refund them the cost of my schooling. I don’t object to the arrangement- the Leo part of me enjoys the ceremony, pomp, and circumstance.
After planning my FSIL’s bridal shower and my brother’s wedding, I’m a little partied out, so I was hoping to skip the graduation party. My parents, I think, want one. Fine, I can accept a little extra stress around planning a get-together.
Naturally, I asked how many formal announcements I ought to be purchasing in order to alert the masses of relatives, family friends, and other individuals to my impending change in educational status. I was told that a mere 50 would suffice. In fact, that and my Master’s hood were all that I would need to complete my graduation package.

I walked into the graduation fair and was handed a pricing list, and immediately felt shock. As I said, I consider myself an intelligent person. However, my hypothesis for the overall cost of all of these items was perhaps around one hundred dollars. After all, the only things I actually needed were 50 printed pieces of paper and a three-foot bundle of fabric.

Oh, was I wrong. First of all, the announcements are priced at $49.95. That is per set of 25, taking the cost of announcements up to nearly $100. Then, they charge a $10 delivery fee and 9.75% tax. For the extra convenience of return address labels, it is a mere $10 per 60. Already, for the privilege of official notification, I was going to be charged $130.

Next was the issue of the hood. First of all, CSULB, in its collective wisdom, uses a rental company to provide the caps and gowns for its graduates. The rental package for the MA includes a gown (with specially-cut sleeves that differ from the BA and gold cording at the yoke), a cap (with Cal State Long Beach painted on to the top in orangey-gold paint), a tassel (in case you misplaced your original), and the hood (in discipline-appropriate color). For the privilege of using this package for one day, except for the cap, which you may keep, the cost is a reasonable $55. I was tempted, but I really wanted to keep my hood. However, when I asked about that possibility, it was revealed to me that the cost of the hood (by itself) was $129. Plus delivery. Plus tax. I would pay nearly three times the cost of renting the whole outfit for a white-lined hood about three feet in length.

This is after paying the thousands of dollars in tuition, fees, books, transportation, and after thousands of hours invested in commuting, studying, researching, and writing. Couldn’t they just throw in the cost of the damn hood?

I don’t normally consider myself unintelligent, but in the case of the hood, I admit that I may allow them to extort my money for the sentimental value of a scrap of fabric that will likely end up hanging on my wall like a drab black-and -white flag of academic surrender.

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