Two-thousand miles stand between Luke Wright and his commencement ceremony.
Most students celebrate the completion of college by tossing up a graduation cap with hundreds of their peers. But for those who graduate in the fall, the occasion is not marked by an extravagant ceremony.
“I’ll be starting my full-time job in Seattle in March, well before the College of Natural Sciences hosts a graduation ceremony,” Wright said. “This means I’ll either be looking at paying for a flight back to Austin or my family won’t get the opportunity to see me walk.”
Of the 13 colleges and schools at UT, only five provide a commencement ceremony for their fall graduates. Other schools, such as the College of Natural Sciences and the College of Liberal Arts, only offer fall graduates the option to walk in the spring.
Only offering spring graduation is a way to encourage students to graduate on time in four years, said Christine Sinatra, director of communications for the College of Natural Sciences.
“Holding commencement ceremonies only in the spring has been the University’s approach for decades, and many public flagship institutions also support their students in graduating with their class in four years by offering spring ceremonies only,” Sinatra said. “The College of Natural Sciences sees this as a way we can ‘walk the talk’ to support the campus-wide emphasis on timely graduation.”
Although partaking in the spring commencement is offered as an alternative, sometimes fall graduates miss out on commencement because they have found jobs in different cities or are planning to attend graduate school in the spring.
Biology senior Ashlynn Broussard is moving to Germany for graduate school in the spring and will not get the opportunity to come back to Austin for her ceremony.
“Since I will be moving abroad to pursue my master’s degree, I will not get the chance to walk the stage like my fellow peers or siblings have,” Broussard said. “It’s really frustrating because I’ve worked so hard to get to this point.”
Psychology senior Elyza Bailey is moving to Virginia to live with her family after graduating in the fall. Traveling back to Austin solely for the commencement ceremony will be challenging and expensive, Bailey said.
This is especially unfair, Bailey said, because some colleges put on a fall commencement ceremony while others do not afford the same opportunity to their students.
“As a liberal arts student in one of the biggest majors in my college, I feel like UT is almost saying we are less deserving of a graduation than, say, McCombs or another college that has a fall graduation,” Bailey said. “It’s also frustrating as no one will give me a straight answer as to why we don’t have fall graduations, or where this decision came from.”
Wright said the University shouldn’t leave this issue up to individual colleges.
“I feel like I’m being penalized for finishing school ahead of time,” Wright said. “It feels unfair, like something that the university should have a better solution to than punting it to the colleges.”