If you’re heading to Cal State Bakersfield’s commencement ceremony Friday, you’ll be greeted with happy graduates, a reception replete with food and about 18,000 other family members clamoring for that perfect photo.
CSUB officials are anticipating that Friday’s ceremony will be the largest in the university’s history, both in the number of graduates walking – 2,415 – and in the number of family members they’re inviting. It was so big, in fact, that the university had to set up a second ceremony to accommodate all the guests.
Which got us thinking, just how much does this whole well-deserved shindig cost?
The answer: $450,000, roughly 45 percent more than what the university has spent in past graduation ceremonies.
“We want it to be a first-class experience and we want the parents to enjoy it and family members and the little brothers and sisters and cousins to be inspired by seeing someone graduate, and aspire to being up there some day, too,” CSUB spokesman Michael Lukens said.
So what’s contributed to the rising cost of graduating students this year? For one thing, the sheer number of family members attending, Lukens said. The university had so many grads that it set up its ceremony on the soccer field, instead of the amphitheatre, where it traditionally hosted the event.
That required 10,000 folding chairs, a stage, and two massive screens projecting the events on the stage for those who are sitting farther away, Lukens said.
CSUB initially attempted to curb the number of guests by limiting tickets, but opted to instead hold two ceremonies after students balked.
“The message came through loud and clear from everybody, and I mean everybody,” Lukens said. “They wanted ceremonies that were accessible to as many people as we could fit in here.”
Some students are bringing as many as 40 guests, Lukens said.
“We expect it to be pretty full,” Lukens added.
Anticipating big crowds, CSUB also set up screens in the Icardo Center for those who want to watch the ceremony indoors.
But what really drove up the cost was the post-commencement reception, Lukens said. The university is feeding 18,000 people at a cost of almost $80,000. In the morning, there will be muffins and pastries. In the afternoon, sliders and finger food, Lukens said.
The event will be worth the cost, he said.
"It really is amazing, the energy and excitement for this is almost astounding," Lukens said.
The first ceremony begins at 7 a.m. for graduates from the School of Arts and Humanities; Business and Public Administration; and Natural Sciences, Mathematics, and Engineering. Guests can begin entering at 5:30 a.m.
The second ceremony takes place at noon for graduates from the School of Social Sciences and Education. Guests can enter as early as 10:30 a.m.