On Wednesday, Ricardo Canelo will be the first in his family to graduate from college when he receives his New York University diploma at Yankee Stadium. But NYU only issues graduating students three complimentary tickets, so he’ll have to choose between his father, mother, aunt, girlfriend, and two brothers. Or, he could turn to the black market, where seniors are selling tickets on Facebook for hundreds of dollars.
For students like Canelo, it is difficult to muster up that kind of money. The highest asking price he has seen is $250. “Right now, I’m offering the equivalent of my cable bill, maybe even that plus utilities combined,” he told Gothamist.
The university, where tuition costs $53,000/year, does have a lottery system that deals single extra lottery tickets to winners, but the nature of a lottery means that there is no guarantee that a student will be able to obtain a ticket. Canelo’s fraternity brother gave him one of his tickets, but he still hopes to obtain two more so that his whole family can make it to his ceremony.
Nia Mirza is looking for two to four tickets, and says the best deal she has found would cost her $300 ($75 each for four tickets). Members of her family would be flying in from Pakistan to celebrate her graduation, yet not all of them will be able to attend the commencement.
“It is so sad to say no to these people,” Mirza said. “It is also very embarrassing.”
Screenshot of one NYU student "auctioning" off an extra graduation ticket.
One NYU student, who asked that we not publish her name because she doesn’t want to get in trouble with the school, paid $200 for two tickets because she could not wait for the lottery. “I actually just got a lottery one, but it was so last minute that I needed two tickets beforehand to make sure my grandparents weren’t flying out for nothing,” she said.
There have been more than 100 posts requesting tickets to buy or sell (including one from the author of this article) in the NYU Class of 2019 Facebook group. The number of transactions that have successfully gone through is more difficult to determine.
“I can get a few hundred from selling mine, the choice between selling and giving away is pretty easy,” one ticket scalper who asked that we not publish their name, told us. “A hundred bucks can go a long way for expenses.”
The university’s website states that “NYU strictly prohibits the direct or indirect sale of All-University Commencement tickets,” also enumerates potential consequences, like “including without limitation the delayed issuance of a degree or diploma.”
“When we are told of specific instances, we contact the students directly,” Regina S. Drew, the director of the Office of University Events, wrote in an email. The students are then told that they are at risk of losing their tickets. “We urge any student who hears about students selling commencement tickets via email at firstname.lastname@example.org,” she said.
Drew said that NYU disciplined students for scalping tickets last year, but declined to elaborate.
One of the barriers stopping NYU from distributing more tickets is the fact that Yankee Stadium has a seating capacity of a little over 47,000 people; there are around 18,000 students who are expected to graduate.
Drew added that “the sheer scale” of the event makes it virtually impossible for us to confirm who does or does not have a genuine personal need for tickets.” Last year, there were only about 31,000 people in attendance, despite the school distributing all available tickets.
However, NYU students are allowed to give extra tickets away.
Graduating cinema studies student Lorraine Schmucker plans to give her wristbands to someone who needs them. “I think making people bid for graduation tickets is disgusting,” she said.
“I could understand selling them if NYU charged us for the tickets and people wanted to make their money back, but since we got the tickets for free I don’t know why people can’t just help each other out and give it to someone who needs it.”