Once you get into your daily routine here, it’s sometimes easy to forget that VCU is a large, heavily populated university. When VCU provides a service to students, particularly a free service, it’s not just a couple hundred students who benefit; it’s thousands of students.
When VCU announced that they would no longer provide graduating students with free caps, gowns and hoods for their graduation, it’s not hard to understand the reasoning behind their decision.
As petty as it might seem to be frustrated with the university for this decision, it’s not an unreasonable emotion. After four long years of paying VCU’s annually increasing tuition, student fees, parking passes, bus passes, lab fees, printing costs, meal plans and more, the addition of graduation fees feels like another hindrance, intended not to stop, but to slow. It’s a taxing experience that leaves students concerned about what program or service will be next to be defunded or canceled.
On the part of the university, it’s a smart decision that could have and maybe should have taken place some time ago. Not spending an annual cost of $140,000 to provide graduating students with material they’ll use only once, if they attend their graduation at all, is a smart cost-effective measure.
While we can only hope it will decrease the steepness of the next tuition increase or prevent some other small, but innocent service or program from being cut, it’s a step toward the kind of fiscal responsibility that we, as students, can respect.
In the official notice, the university states that the cost has diverted funds from priorities like financial aid and student services. In invoking two services held sacrosanct to the student body, however, the administration has made an unspoken promise and forced itself to make marked improvements on those two fronts or risk the ire of students, who will remember next year when they’re reminded they have to buy their own regalia.
While students may call the administration uncaring for ceasing the service, remember that slighting their graduating students is the last thing the university would want to do. Those students are about to become alumni and, consequently, potential donors to the university.
The university greatly relies on the generosity of donors and endowments and if you don’t believe that, check out the names on VCU buildings. In the last fundraising year, the university brought in more than $120 million in gifts, according to the Office of Development and Alumni Relations, creating hundreds of student scholarships, supporting various research projects and helping the construction of a number of new buildings for both the Monroe Park and Medical campuses. Despite how students feel and interpret administrative responses, there is evidence to show that they care about their reputation with the student body.
It behooves us to remember these facts. To forget and generate banal posts on Facebook about VCU not caring about the financial or general well-being of its own student body is to do a disservice to the thousands of dollars you spend on tuition and the thousands of dollars the university invests in each student. We are all pulling in the same direction, earnestly hoping to combat the rising expense of higher education. What the student body ought to concentrate on is holding the university accountable for what they do and remaining well-informed.