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.