Sunday, May 03, 2009

High Cost Commencement In Low-Budget Days

What's UC Merced to do?

The commencement budget at University of California, Merced, has ballooned from $100,000 to $700,000 since first lady Michelle Obama accepted the invitation to give the keynote address, university officials said Thursday.

Organizers are pursuing ways to defray the bill for the May 16 event.

But, university spokeswoman Tonya Luiz said Thursday: "We have her first public address. It's our obligation to make Merced look good."

AT&T, the Educational Employees Credit Union and Kaiser Permanente have collectively committed to donate $80,000 to the university's ceremony, Luiz said. Even though it's Obama's first major speech since the election, lining up financial support from major companies has proved tough.

"It's the end of the fiscal year. There's not a whole lot of extra money in their budgets," Luiz said.

Sponsors will get their logos on the JumboTrons and on the gift bags given to graduates. However, there won't be any one-on-one time with the first lady, Luiz said.

$80,000 is a nice dent, but it's not much compared to $700,000.


Ellen K said...

Isn't this pretty much along the same lines as wearing designer shoes that cost $540 to a soup kitchen? Should the First Lady be commanding that much in tribute? It's one thing to make the place look good, but it's quite another to bankrupt student funds to do so.

PeggyU said...

Is there some reason she can't do this pro bono? I mean, the $80,000 could cover the trip and the security and lodging, couldn't it? Isn't this the same woman who once advised minority students to go into social services and forego professional degrees and personal financial gain for the sake of giving back to their communities? Time to model the behavior, Michelle! Serve as an inspiration to others, you know. And wear something from Target while you're at it!

Scott McCall said...

so she's making people fork out the money themselves? why doesn't she bring some money from "the taxpayers" to help the school out?

Darren said...

From some of the comments it seems like some people think she's getting a fee for speaking. I didn't read anything in the article that hinted at that. I get the impression--and this is just my interpretation from reading the article--that the ballooning costs come from added security *and* UC Merced's desire to "show off" for an international audience.

Scott McCall said...

Oh yeah, i know that's what it's for. But you think that she would say something about not stressting to make it look nice, or offering money to the school for this specific reason or any reason if that.

PeggyU said...

Ah! I stand corrected and apologize for my erroneous assumption. :) I thought a speaking fee was involved. Really, $700,000 for security? Kind of not worth it, if you ask me. I don't recall the last time we factored the prestige of guest speakers into our kids' decision to attend a college.