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Michelle Obama's graduation talk becomes a budget buster

UC Merced's commencement budget has ballooned from $100,000 to $700,000 after first lady Michelle Obama accepted the invitation to give the keynote address.

Campus leaders, busy simply planning the large-scale event that's only 15 days away, have yet to secure all funding streams, spokeswoman Tonya Luiz said Thursday.

The budget estimate represents the most costly situation, and organizers are pursuing ways to defray the bill.

"We have her first public address," Luiz said. "It's our obligation to make Merced look good."

Campus planners are trying to be as careful with cash and hope the bills won't be as high as projected. Nevertheless, they want the university to shine May 16 when Obama steps to the lectern to inspire the graduating class.

The city's downtown festival will cost about $30,000, which leaders believe will entirely be covered by sponsorships.

AT&T, the Educational Employees Credit Union and Kaiser Permanente have collectively committed to donate $80,000 to the university's ceremony, Luiz said. Even though it's Obama's first major speech since the election, lining up financial support from major companies has proved tough.

Read the complete story at mercedsunstar.com

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