Herff Jones, IU’s vendor for caps, gowns and other graduation materials, is charging IU-Bloomington undergraduates $88.30 for renting the minimum apparel needed for commencement, according to the Herff Jones website for IU. Students at other colleges such as Butler University and Ball State University pay less.
All graduates must wear caps and gowns purchased through IU’s designated vendor to commencement, according to IU’s commencement page. Graduates will return gowns after the ceremony, but keep caps, tassels and stoles of gratitude if they received an undergraduate degree.
Herff Jones has been IU’s vendor for over 40 years, IU spokesperson Chuck Carney said in an email. IU does not add any additional fees to Herff Jones prices, he said in an email
Herff Jones works with universities to help those who are unable to afford cap and gown prices, Herff Jones representative Patrick Cavazos said. Cavazos said he represents Herff Jones for the majority of Indiana schools.
In 20 years, he said he has only seen two situations where students had issues paying for a cap and gown, and both issues were solved and paid for.
IU master’s graduates pay $111.80 for caps and gowns, and Doctoral students pay $149.60, according to the Herff Jones website. Cavazos said additional items such as hoods and different designs raise prices.
In addition, IU students also pay extra for orders made after April 12, according to IU’s commencement page. According to IU’s Herff Jones website, orders placed after April 5 may come with additional fees.
IU allows Herff Jones to sell products to graduates and the IU community, and any money IU makes is spent towards campus services and students, Carney said in an email.
IU students who graduated in 2020 and rented gowns will not have to pay again if they participate in 2021’s commencement, Carney said.
The costs are lower for other Indiana schools such as Butler University, which charges $47.50 before tax for bachelor student robes and does not use Herff Jones as a vendor, according to their website. Butler master’s students pay $90.50 and doctoral students pay $111.50.
Ball State charges $49.98 before tax for undergraduates. Master’s and doctoral students pay $97.98.
Both Butler and Ball State allow students to keep their purchases.
Purdue West Lafayette’s costs for undergraduate and graduate students are the same as IU’s, except late fees begin on April 17, according to a Purdue cap and gown rental form.
IU students said the costs are too high and do not reflect the joy of commencement.
“I think it's kind of silly to rent a cap and gown for that much money,” IU senior Bethany Murray said.
Murray, who will receive her bachelor's degree in May, said commencement is as important to graduating students as is wearing the cap and gown.
“If students can't buy the gown because it's too expensive, then I feel like that undermines it a little bit,” she said.
However, IU senior Matthieu Picard said the argument lies not in the price, but in the principal.
“We'll take a look at what we're paying for, and we'll demand value, and when we see that something's not fair,” Picard said. “We'll go poke around and we'll try and see if it can be improved for ourselves and for other students.”
Cavazos said IU’s prices are higher because the company’s caps and gowns use recycled material, are made of a higher quality and are created custom for each university.
Cavazos said IU’s prices for both on time and late rental have not changed in a few years and will not change over the next decade, due to the agreement between Herff Jones and IU.
Editor Note: Matthieu Picard was previously a photographer for the IDS.