Arushi Sharma (she/her) and Alan Wu (he/him)

It’s expensive to be a senior

Jun 18, 2023

With another class of bright minds getting ready to don their caps and gowns, it’s pivotal to shed light on an often overlooked aspect of graduation: the substantial financial burden that comes with it. 

As they approach the final hurrah of their high school experience, seniors’ excitement and sense of accomplishment are juxtaposed with the harsh reality of the costs associated with senior year traditions. From the cost of prom to the endless examinations, the expenses seem to pile up relentlessly. We have an obligation to ensure that every senior can graduate in a manner befitting the achievement without being shackled by financial constraints. 

Graduation attire and other senior swag, marketed as mementos of our high school years, pose a financial burden. A cap and gown set costs $85 at a bare minimum, and associated items like graduation yard signs, tickets and honor cords all add up even if they may seem small individually. According to a survey conducted by the American Association of School Administrators, the average cost of a cap and gown set ranges from $50 to $100, with some schools charging even more. Although IHS provides cap and gowns to borrow, it may make students feel out of place. Yearbooks start at $50, not including the cost of senior ads; a one-block ad (1/9 of a page) costs $45 and can fit 1-2 photos or messages, and a full page costs $255. When combined with other senior merchandise, such as class rings, senior jackets and key rings, the cumulative costs become substantial. These high prices not only limit access but also dampen the ability of seniors to celebrate and cherish their accomplishments. 

Another financial burden for seniors are exam fees for AP and IB tests, which are required for IB Diploma students. According to a report from the Education Commission of the States, over 40% of high schools in the United States charge fees for final exams, ranging from $100 to $125 per exam, particularly for programs like AP and IB. Although these fees are from AP and IB, and there is financial assistance at Inglemoor, it is not enough. Such costs limit the value of AP and IB testing, hindering students’ ability to get college credits. 

The crux of the matter lies in the principles of equity and fairness. Because these expenses do not impact every senior equally, they create educational disparities. For instance, a study conducted by the Economic Policy Institute revealed that families with lower incomes spend a larger percentage of their earnings on education-related expenses compared to wealthier families. This further widens the socioeconomic gap and hinders equal opportunities for all students. 

This year, the minimum price for prom tickets was $55 with an ASB card and $60 without, and the price grew to $65 the following week. These costs do not account for the outfit, accessories, and sometimes hair and makeup. According to a recent study conducted by the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the average minimum cost of prom in the United States stands at a staggering $300, placing this much-anticipated rite of passage beyond the financial reach of many students. The prom dress exchange at the Viking Village was an excellent solution to the problem. However, why should the price be so high? The soaring price tag not only presents a significant barrier to participation but also amplifies the social and emotional pressures associated with this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Although senior breakfast tickets are substantially cheaper than prom — only $5 this year due to substantial donations from parents — last year they were $17 without ASB and $15 with. This additional expense can further strain students’ already stretched budgets, diminishing their ability to fully celebrate the end of their high school journey. School administrators and some policymakers here address the financial burden of graduation. By critically evaluating these expenses, alternative solutions have been found. Yet the cost is still quite substantial. 

The expenses associated with prom and senior breakfast tickets, cap and gowns, senior swag and final exam fees generate disparities among students and hinder the true spirit of senior year. By reevaluating these costs, we can ensure that every student has an equal opportunity to participate and relish in the culmination of their high school journey, regardless of their financial circumstances. Senior year should epitomize unity, celebration and the creation of unforgettable memories for all.

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Photo of Arushi Sharma (she/her)
Arushi Sharma (she/her), Co-Editor-in-Chief

Senior Arushi Sharma is Co-Editor-In-Chief of Nordic News for the 2022-2023 school year. She hopes to increase Nordic's engagement in her third year on...

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