Are celebrity commencement speaker fees worth it?

LexION Capital CEO Elle Kaplan on universities across the country paying huge fees for celebrities to speak at commencements.

Universities' Big Commencement Speech Fees Not Adding Up?

By Media & Advertising

Many universities are now shelling out big bucks for celebrity commencement speakers, but is the PR boost worth it or is it a waste of university funds?

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“Universities are shelling out massive amounts of money, often public universities, to people like Matthew McConaughey or Katie Couric,” Lexion Capital CEO Elle Kaplan told the FOX Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo.

And celebrities often get other perks above and beyond just the six-figure fees.

“The school is giving you an honorary degree and you’re given this wonderful opportunity to inspire students, could you imagine? And demanding six figures, first class air travel to and from, spa treatments – it’s absolutely crazy,” said Kaplan.

These big fees raise questions about where the money is coming from to pay these celebrities. For example, Matthew McConaughey was paid $166,000 in 2015 to give the commencement address at the University of Houston in 2015, and yet, “Student debt is getting higher and higher every year, and these are often public universities that are doing this. What’s even crazier is most universities pay nothing,” Kaplan said.

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Kaplan also questions the reasoning behind asking actors to speak at college graduations in the first place.

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“Instead of paying an actor massive amounts of money, why not pay real heroes? Why not pay someone who’s gone from homeless to employed to inspire graduates. Or pay no one at all and just have people feel that honor and come on in. Maybe members of the military, other people who are real American heroes who can inspire graduates versus these actors. Often these actors don’t even have college degrees,” said Kaplan.

On the other hand, Facebook (FB) COO Sheryl Sandberg spoke at the University of California at Berkeley for free.

“Anyone who is given an honorarium by a university should feel that honor and speak for free. Sheryl Sandberg is a role model and a wonderful business person, so great, she did what everyone should be doing,” Kaplan said.

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