This year, prom tickets cost as much as $25 more individually and $45 for couples. The increase in price is meant to enable a better prom experience; however, it also raises a concern for some students about equity.
Prom, located at Chatham Mills — a rustic performing arts and event center in Pittsboro — will stand out from previous years. With hardwood floors, furniture from the 1920s and extravagant decorations, students will immerse themselves in the world of The Great Gatsby.
In response to complaints about raised prices, Junior Class Council, who is planning prom this year, emphasized that the problem exists beyond Carrboro. Tickets at Carrboro cost no more than those at other CHCCS high schools.
“We did the price based on other schools, and what we needed, plus all the recommendations from last year,” said Junior Class Council member Rachel McCown. “In order to make the improvements, it costs more money.”
CHS offers financial aid for students unable to afford a ticket. Additionally, April Crider, social worker at CHS, coordinates Cinderella’s Closet, which provides dresses, tuxes or shoes to students in need of financial assistance.
“I just feel like the prices this year are going to be really unaffordable for a lot of people,” said junior Niya Fearrington. “I think prom is a once in a lifetime type of experience that many people look forward to, and because of the raised ticket prices, many people won’t be able to have the opportunity.”
Despite this available aid, rising costs underline some of the bigger issues surrounding prom as a tradition.
“Equity has been, and will remain, a very large issue around a lot of societal institutions, school being one of those [institutions],” said Dr. Mattocks.
Moreover, she explained that the issues around inequity aren’t solely in ticket pricing.
“[Prom] really should cause us to question our values and what we believe it should be, and the pressure that we as a society put on parents and young people to expend those types of resources,” said Mattocks. “When in fact the things that really matter about prom are intangible.”
Some students have also voiced concerns over equity, saying that prom is not an event they feel welcome being a part of.
“There’s not a single student of color on the prom committee,” said junior Cameron Farrar. “And I’m not saying that’s anyone’s fault, but when that’s the culture that you see, you kind of fall in place and say ‘well obviously my voice does not matter and this event is not for me.’”
Farrar also worries about how equity concerns will affect the racial makeup of prom attendees.
“As a student of color, I will attend prom but under the notion knowing that I will be one of a few African American students there,” said Farrar.
According to Junior Class Council President Mackenzie Cox, the hardest part about planning prom is taking into account suggestions from the student body. “We have to think about everyone; you have to think about every single person and what they would want,” said Cox.
Fearrington agrees that planning prom is a complicated endeavor.
“I give kudos to the people planning prom because it is a hard process and you can’t please everyone, but I’m excited and I’m going,” said Fearrington.
Regardless of this year’s price difference, CHS hopes to move forward and make prom an accessible and fun experience for everyone.
Farrar took this idea further, offering concrete solutions to the equity issues surrounding prom. She suggested the SGA and Junior Class Council work together to raise money year-round to offset prom costs.
Mattocks is optimistic about prom, despite any unintended impacts of the price changes. “I think all is going to end well,” said Mattocks. “Maybe we come together and say ‘we want to have a prom where no one is excluded and no one has to ask anyone for anything.’”
Illustration by Katy Strong