EDITORIAL: The True Cost of Prom


By Tam News Staff

Tam isn’t known for its abundance of traditional school activities; we don’t have regular dances, Friday night lights are nonexistent, and it’s not common to hang out by our lockers in the hallways. The one school tradition that Tam holds near and dear to our collective hearts is Prom.
Because of the hype surrounding Prom, it tends to be a fairly lavish affair with a number of optional but near-ubiquitous expenses: shoes, a dress, or tux depending on your preference, transportation (even if you go by car, gas is still expensive), hair and makeup, and any costs associated with pre- or post-prom activities. On top of this, students spend another $100-$120 on a ticket in order to just get in the door.
The expenses associated with Prom can add up quickly, and we at The Tam News want to make sure that no members of the Tam community feel left out because they may not be able to afford the myriad expenses that seem to come along with the “ideal Prom experience.”
Many members of the Tam News staff were surprised to learn that the school actually provides financial aid for those who are unable to afford Prom tickets. Students fill out a sheet addressed to the assistant principal stating how much they’re able to pay. Once they get a parent signature on the sheet, they turn it into Assistant Principal Brian Lynch, who approves the request. According to assistant principal Sylvia Herrera, about 50 financial aid requests have been approved this year.
The Tam News commends the administration for offering this kind of financial aid for an experience that may not be strictly academic, but all the same is an important part of the high school experience.
The service, however, its not commonly advertised. Students who are worried about the stigma of not attending Prom may also be too ashamed to further seek out the financial aid that is offered. This could be circumvented by adding any publicity that this service is offered in one of the multiple emails that students receive about Prom. It’s not always clear how students are supposed to obtain aid, and asking for information while standing in a line surrounded by other students who are buying Prom tickets can be intimidating. It’s not necessary to put up fliers, but a single line in an email could mean the difference for a kid that might not get to go to prom otherwise.
Talking about Prom may seem like a somewhat trivial matter, but providing these kinds of experiences for those who want them but are unable to afford them is important, and contributes to the social and emotional development of the community. People who can’t afford things such as Prom tickets are so frequently overlooked or not thought about, evidenced by the number of Tam News staff members who didn’t know that financial aid for Prom was available.
The Tam News wants to emphasize that we aren’t merely advocating for financial aid for dances. Activities such as A.P. tests, field trips, and other educational experiences that students are commonly asked to pay for are equally essential, and keeping financial aid for those experiences prominently available is equally important.
At the same time, we want to take the time to point out the areas in which certain students may be overlooked. Experiences such as Prom are high-engagement events, and dominate conversation, especially among upperclassmen, for weeks and even months both prior to and after the dance.
We want to commend the administration for offering this service, and remind the student body in general to be aware that there are people with different life experiences and situations than their own. We as a community shouldn’t allow students to feel alienated or left out because they can’t afford something like Prom.
Prom is such a hyped event, and there’s a lot of pressure to make sure that it’s as special and magical as possible, but students should keep in mind that just because it’s possible to have Prom as lavishly as possible. Making small changes such as choosing a slightly cheaper bus, or eating dinner at a friend’s house beforehand can help to minimize the cost of Prom, and ultimately make it more inclusive for all students.
The type of food you eat for dinner or the type of bus you take isn’t going to make or break your future memories, and it might make somebody else more comfotrable attending Prom.