Graduating college will be more of a hopeful expectation than an actual celebration Saturday for some students at Augusta State University.
That's because many of them will be marching a semester before they complete the requirements of their degree. As university officials move commencement to the Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center and eliminate December graduations, they are allowing students who expect to graduate next fall to march, said Katherine Sweeney, the registrar and director of admissions.
"They will march, but ... we will mail them their diplomas when they actually finish," she said. "What we are moving toward is a ceremony as opposed to an official conferring of degrees."
There are 674 students who have indicated their intent to march Saturday, making it the largest commencement in the university's history.
Graduation was moved to the civic center this year because the graduating classes were growing too big for the Christenberry Fieldhouse, which required many to stand for the ceremonies.
With a move to the larger civic center, graduates can invite whomever they want, Mrs. Sweeney said. Plus, ASU can save money by sharing set-up costs with the Medical College of Georgia, which will hold its spring ceremonies at the civic center today.
"Parking is going to be really nice for everybody, too. We used to have to park people at Daniel Field and then take shuttle buses to the athletic complex," she said. "This way, there is ample parking on both the Eighth Street and the Seventh Street side of the civic center."
The decision to allow December graduates to participate was made by ASU President William A. Bloodworth Jr., who didn't want to make students wait a semester to march, Mrs. Sweeney said.
"I think there are other people who would say, 'Let's let the summer people participate but ask the December people to wait until the next commencement,'" she said. "We will have a big meeting after this first one to tweak things, and that may be a subject of discussion."
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Augusta State University will hold commencement exercises at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center. More than 650 students are expected to march. Tim Shelnut, the vice chairman of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, will be the speaker.