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Cost of bringing Michelle Obama to UC Merced? More than $1 million

The total cost for last month’s commencement ceremony at UC Merced has finally been tallied: $1,047,338.82.

Private contributions of more than $185,000 (including in-kind-gifts) added to $500,000 in unrestricted interest earnings on a private endowment fund, managed by the UC Office of the President, have helped offset the cost of the event.

The balance will be covered by non-state dollars from campus sources and offset by any additional donations that may be made, according to a press release from UC Merced Thursday.

The original budget for the ceremony to commemorate the university’s campus’ first full, four-year graduating class was $100,000, officials on campus said this Spring. That was before Obama confirmed her attendance.

The university rented thousands of white chairs hauled in from around the state and set up a long bank of metal detectors for the big day. Also shipped in were massive jumbo-trons, air-conditioned restroom trailers, an expansive stage and enough sod to cover the ceremony site.

About 38 percent of the budget, or $398,795.99, was spent on audio visual and multimedia needs. Another 28 percent, or $292,504.27, went toward facilities and transportation costs. Those who attended the ceremony were shuttled to campus from parking lots along Lake Road and around town.

Security services added another $122,960 to the bill and rentals cost $159,719.

An estimated crowd of 12,000 attended the afternoon ceremony on May 16, despite sweltering temperatures and a harsh afternoon sun. Almost all members – 511 of 517 – of the graduating class were also on hand.

The university could not release the financial information sooner, the communications department said, because it had to wait for the end of the fiscal year to identify all available funding sources. The 2009-2010 fiscal year began Wednesday.

UC Merced opened on Sept. 5, 2005 with 875 students. Officials expect 3,200 students on campus this coming fall.

Reporter Danielle Gaines can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or dgaines@mercedsun-star.com.

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