Sac State unsure if commencement will face funding shortfall


Nicole Fowler - The State Hornet

Graduating seniors at the Spring 2017 commencement at Golden 1 Center. To be sure that there is

John Ferrannini, copy editor

Sacramento State does not yet know if there will be a shortfall in paying for this May’s commencement at the Golden 1 Center, according to a spokesperson.

“There are too many unknown factors for us to determine a potential shortfall at this point,” said Cely Smart, the chief communications officer for Sac State President Robert Nelsen, in an email to The State Hornet. “We will know the final financial outlook at the end of the fiscal year in June when we receive a final bill from Golden 1 Center and when (we) have collected all of the student fees.”

After the graduation ceremonies were moved to Golden 1 Center from Sleep Train Arena, the Sacramento Kings tripled the fee for holding the ceremonies at their arena. This was after the school increased the student commencement fee intended to pay for the exercises by $13 to $76.50 in anticipation of the move.

Last spring this led to a shortfall of $96,500 in paying for the commencement. This was eventually filled by money from the school’s reserves after $50,000 were waived via the City of Sacramento designating the graduation as a city civic event.

Smart said that the school is planning to ask the city again to designate the graduation as a civic event. The city has created a process for organizations to apply for the designation. No more than nine days a year can be so designated.

In November, Nelsen announced amid criticism that winter commencements would end after December 2017. Last month’s commencement was not designated as a city civic event.

“Our decision to end the winter commencement was based on several issues, including the inability of the graduation fee to completely cover the cost of two ceremonies per year for the past several years,” Smart said.

“We are constantly re-evaluating our graduation ceremonies in an effort to prevent having to raise the student fee.”

Other venues, such as Cal Expo, Raley Field, the Memorial Auditorium and the downtown convention center, have been rejected as potential venues because the school determined there were not enough seats available for guests at those locations.

Anita Fitzhugh of Sac State Public Affairs said that the school will receive the final bill from Golden 1 Center four to six weeks after the ceremony.

Fitzhugh and Smart would not give an estimate of how much the school expects this spring’s graduation to cost. Smart added that the school does not have cost estimates from the downtown arena because “as we are not at that point in the planning process.”

Update: A previous version of this story contained a paraphrase attributed to Cely Smart which stated that the move to the Golden 1 Center was a factor in ending winter commencement. This was an inaccurate paraphrase of Smart’s remarks and it has since been removed.