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March 30, 2006

The Cost of Putting on a Prom Varies Greatly in North Dakota

North Dakota educators say the cost of putting on a prom at their schools ranges from $500 to $10,000. The educators were responding to a survey conducted by Debra Pankow, North Dakota State University Extension Service family economics specialist. Forty educators were surveyed, with the total number of students in their schools ranging from 32 to 2,000.

The junior class sponsors and pays for the prom in 92 percent of the schools. Others mentioned as being involved were the student council, prom committee and school boards. Eight percent of the educators said their school charges students to attend prom. In one case, the charge was $40 per couple.

“A finding that was somewhat surprising was in the area of dress codes for the prom,” Pankow says. “Most schools do not have strict rules or regulations. In most cases, the guidelines call for ‘appropriate’ clothing, such as a suit or tux for males.”

Students who are allowed to attend the prom also varied.

  • Only juniors and seniors – 18.5 percent
  • Juniors, seniors and their dates – 33.3 percent
  • Students in grades 9 through 12 – 22.2 percent

Other configurations were mentioned, such as requiring all students to attend, no one younger than a ninth-grader allowed or dates must be under 21. The number of students attending the prom last year varied from 14 to 1,000.

“When you see that the number of enrolled students varies greatly from school district to school district, it’s understandable that the number of students attending prom also would vary,” Pankow says.

Only one educator mentioned in the survey that a school’s student handbook had rules governing behavior at the prom. Most rules are given to students during the school term or when they arrive at the prom. Some of the rules include:

  • No drinking
  • If you leave, you cannot return
  • Doors locked at 10:30 p.m.
  • Forbidden to attend prom if caught smoking or drinking
  • Cannot have a substance violation in previous six weeks
  • A Breathalyzer test will be administered to those attending

Pankow says many of the educators had personal comments regarding the prom and post prom party. Some of their comments included:

  • Student behavior has been good. We have not had major problems.
  • We have a great post-prom party that some of the parents sponsor. A lot of the students attend. In fact, some attend post-prom, but not the prom.
  • The booster club plans an after-prom party with awesome prizes, games and activities.
  • The prom is a wonderful event. The grand march includes everyone in the junior and senior classes.
  • One student attended the prom escorted by her father.
  • Our school did away with prom for 2006.
  • Prom is an overpriced and overrated social event.
  • It is the biggest school event of the year. What I like most is that all the students are excited and attend. For many, this is the only school event they attend during their time at the school.

For the past several years, Pankow has surveyed students to determine how much they spend on attending prom.

“There was a great deal of interest regarding how much schools spend on prom costs, who could attend, and rules and regulations,” Pankow says. “This year we decided to take the survey in a different direction, with interesting results.”


Source: Debra Pankow, (701) 231-8593,
Editor: Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136,



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