Joining the Greek community means "opportunities for leadership development, service, brotherhood, academic achievement, networking and social engagement," "a home away from home" and "an opportunity to belong to one of the world's largest lifelong, personal development organizations," according to the North-American Interfraternity Conference, a trade association representing 5,500 men's fraternities at more than 800 U.S. college campuses.

In the 2010-2011 school year, the most recent year for which data are available, more than 300,000 men belonged to undergraduate fraternities, gave 2.25 million hours of community service and raised $14.6 million for charity. The National Pan-Hellenic Conference, which represents 2,986 women's fraternity and sorority chapters on 655 campuses, says women's fraternities provide value beyond the college years, by helping individuals develop their potential "through leadership opportunities and group effort." While you may not be able to put a price on benefits like these, you can put a price on the many expenses associated with membership.

SEE: What You Need To Do Before Applying To College

Room and Board
The room and board expenses associated with belonging to a sorority or fraternity vary by school and chapter. At the University of North Carolina (UNC), for example, the average cost for a fraternity member's room, board and dues is $2,970 per semester but ranges from $1,600 to $5,000. For sorority members, the average cost is $2,987 per semester and the range is $2,575 to $3,407. Living in a Greek house is not necessarily more expensive than living in student housing and buying a university meal plan. For example, in Westwood, the upscale Los Angeles neighborhood where UCLA resides, Greek housing can actually save students money. The costs for both seem to be steadily rising as well, but there are ways to combat rising college costs.

New Member Dues and Active Member Dues
At UNC, new members pay $600-$900 in new member dues in the semester when they join. Thereafter, the average cost is $200 to $300 per semester. Dues consist of chapter dues, national dues and pan-hellenic dues. This money helps cover expenses, such as liability insurance, house upkeep, scholarships and social events. Some chapters have payment plans that help members meet their dues obligations.

SEE: Student Borrowing: University Payment Plan Vs. Federal Student Loans

Some chapters impose fines on individual members for breaking rules. You might have to pay up if you miss a mandatory meeting or activity, or don't meet GPA standards. Recruitment infractions can also result in fines, which might cost $50 per violation. Members may also be fined for not doing assigned housework or for drinking alcohol at events where alcohol consumption is not allowed. Some chapters allow these fines to be paid in service hours. Also, Greek houses can face fines for fire code violations, trash violations and failure to submit required paperwork on time. In a worst-case scenario, a house could face expensive police fines for violations of city laws, such as serving alcohols to minors and exceeding house occupancy limits during parties.

Social Expenses
Expenses associated with social activities can be difficult to estimate before joining a sorority or fraternity. They can vary significantly by chapter but they're also the expense you technically have the most control over. However, just because it isn't mandatory to donate to every charity event and buy a new dress for every dance and a new t-shirt for every function, doesn't mean you won't feel like these expenses are required when you're overtly or subtly pressured into them. Social expenses can add hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to the cost of "going Greek."

You might be expected to spend money on clothes with your chapter's colors and letters, gifts for your brothers or sisters, event tickets, outings to restaurants and bars, limousine rentals for formal nights out and professional event photos. In some chapters, you could face pressure to buy designer clothes and accessories to maintain the group's self-styled image.

SEE: Pay For College Without Selling A Kidney

Alumni Expenses
Students who take to heart the lifelong membership component of the Greek system will find themselves with sorority- and fraternity-related expenses long after they graduate. "Adults spend an astronomical amount of money as members of alumni chapters of fraternal organizations, especially in the African-American community," says Crystal L. Kendrick, president of Cincinnati marketing firm The Voice of Your Customer.

"Many professionals join alumni chapters at costs that could easily reach $1,000," she says. In addition to joining fees, there are event fees. Regional and national sorority conventions that give graduates an opportunity to meet members of all ages of their chapters from other colleges, but it costs money to travel to and participate in these events. Kendrick adds that supporting various fundraising efforts throughout the year and purchasing expensive paraphernalia can further add to alumni expenses.

Career Advantages
Fraternity and sorority members are more likely to graduate and, as a group, have slightly higher GPAs than their non-Greek peers. Beyond graduation, if you nurture the social connections you'll develop as a member of the Greek system, you can have access to a lifelong network that can help you get a job and advance in your career. Numerous politicians, Fortune 500 executives, Supreme Court justices and American presidents belonged to fraternities or sororities.

The Bottom Line
The expenses associated with Greek life may not be that different than what you'd pay as a non-Greek student purchasing the school's room and board package and participating in other extracurricular activities, such as sports, clubs, university-wide events and social gatherings. Also, Greek scholarships are sometimes available to help offset college expenses. Expenses do vary significantly by chapter, so if money is a concern, find out as much as you can about the costs you'll face before you pledge, and decide whether those expenses are worth it for the experiences you'll have and the connections you'll gain through Greek life.

SEE: Last-Minute Strategies To Help Pay For College

Related Articles
  1. Professionals

    The Best Financial Modeling Courses for Investment Bankers

    Obtain information, both general and comparative, about the best available financial modeling courses for individuals pursuing a career in investment banking.
  2. Entrepreneurship

    10 Habits Every Entrepreneur Should Have

    Discover 10 habits common to successful entrepreneurs that you can emulate in your journey toward achieving success in your own career and life.
  3. FA

    CIPM: The Key To A Niche Career In Finance

    CIPM designates usually work as investment performance analysts.
  4. Credit & Loans

    College Loans: Private vs. Federal

    Not all student loans are the same. Know what you're getting into before signing on the dotted line.
  5. Entrepreneurship

    The 4 Best Online Entrepreneurship Programs

    Learn about some of the pre-eminent graduate-level entrepreneurship programs available online, and decide which program best fits your needs.
  6. Investing

    Most Valuable Career Skills in 2016

    Evaluating the mixture of technical skills and traditional "soft skills" that render career applicants competitive in the 2016 job market.
  7. Credit & Loans

    Student Loan Debt: Is Consolidation The Answer?

    Consolidating student loans entails taking out a new loan to pay off existing loans. It sounds simple, but there are a few things to keep in mind.
  8. Professionals

    Top 5 Post-Grad Degrees That Lead To High Pay

    Although completing a post-grad degree is tough, the payoff is usually worth it. These five jobs typically pay well over $100,000 a year.
  9. Professionals

    Increase Your Odds of Getting a Job After College

    Economists still say college is the best path to a high-paying job. Nowadays, it just requires a little more thought before heading off to the university.
  10. Investing

    5 Free Ways to Learn New Skills Online

    Stay sharp and up to speed with today's valuable skills on these five, completely free online platforms.
  1. What’s the difference between the two federal student loan programs (FFEL and Direct)?

    The short answer is that one loan program still exists (Federal Direct Loans) and one was ended by the Health Care and Education ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. Student loans, federal and private: what's the difference?

    The cost of a college education now rivals many home prices, making student loans a huge debt that many young people face ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Can I use my IRA to pay for my college loans?

    If you are older than 59.5 and have been contributing to your IRA for more than five years, you may withdraw funds to pay ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Can I use my 401(k) to pay for my college loans?

    If you are over 59.5, or separate from your plan-sponsoring employer after age 55, you are free to use your 401(k) to pay ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. What are the best MBA programs for corporate finance?

    Opinions vary based on which publications you consult, but the best MBA programs for a career in corporate finance are at ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. What are the benefits of hiring a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) to be my financial ...

    A Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) has successfully passed rigorous coursework in the fields of economics, financial analysis, ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Hot Definitions
  1. Black Friday

    1. A day of stock market catastrophe. Originally, September 24, 1869, was deemed Black Friday. The crash was sparked by gold ...
  2. Turkey

    Slang for an investment that yields disappointing results or turns out worse than expected. Failed business deals, securities ...
  3. Barefoot Pilgrim

    A slang term for an unsophisticated investor who loses all of his or her wealth by trading equities in the stock market. ...
  4. Quick Ratio

    The quick ratio is an indicator of a company’s short-term liquidity. The quick ratio measures a company’s ability to meet ...
  5. Black Tuesday

    October 29, 1929, when the DJIA fell 12% - one of the largest one-day drops in stock market history. More than 16 million ...
  6. Black Monday

    October 19, 1987, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) lost almost 22% in a single day. That event marked the beginning ...
Trading Center