Judson Horras, President and CEO of the North-American Interfraternity Conference, a trade association representing 6,100 men's fraternities at more than 800 U.S. college campuses, states that, "At their core, fraternities are about brotherhood, personal development and providing a community of support."
In the 2015 to 2016 school year, the most recent year for which data are available, more than 384,000 men belonged to undergraduate fraternities, gave 3.8 million hours of community service and raised $2.3 million for charity. The National Pan-Hellenic Conference, which represents 3,288 women's fraternity and sorority chapters on over 670 campuses, states that 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.
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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 or sorority member's room range from $2,560 to $4,900, and meal plans range from $1,250 to $2,050 per semester.
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, but there are ways to combat rising college costs.
New Member Dues and Active Member Dues
At UNC, for 2018, new members pay between $575 to $2,500 in new member dues in the semester when they join. Thereafter, the cost per semester ranges from $100 to $1,000 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.
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Some chapters impose fines on individual members for breaking rules. You might have to pay if you miss a mandatory meeting or activity or do not meet GPA standards. Recruitment infractions can also result in fines, which might cost $100 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.
Expenses associated with social activities can be difficult to estimate before joining a sorority or fraternity. They can vary significantly by chapter, but they are also the expense you technically have the most control over. However, although it is not mandatory to donate to every charity event and buy a new dress for every dance and a new t-shirt for every function, you may still feel pressure to do so. 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 be asked to buy designer clothes and accessories to maintain the group's self-styled image.
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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," said 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 said. 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 added that supporting various fundraising efforts throughout the year and purchasing expensive paraphernalia can further add to alumni expenses.
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 the amount you would 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. Therefore, if money is a concern, find out as much as you can about the costs you will face before you pledge, and decide whether those expenses are worth it for the experiences you will gain and the connections you will build through Greek life.