The Problem – Introduction:
Greek Life is a very significant part of the college social scene throughout the United States. Greek Life institutions operate to help students build lifelong connections, gain valuable interpersonal and leadership skills, and turn a big community into a much smaller, tight-knit one. Through social events with sororities, philanthropic endeavors, and brotherhood-wide gatherings, Fraternities foster unmatched social communities at the college scene. But of course, ultimately, all goods and services are delivered at a cost, and in the case of fraternities, a very hefty one. Unfortunately, these implicit and explicit costs of fraternity/sorority membership forces tens of thousands of students— particularly of low socioeconomic status— to turn away from ‘Going Greek’. The current paradigm segregates an abundance of students away from the vibrant social and academic amenities brought forth from fraternity and sorority life. As a result, all are affected by this inequality and change is needed.
Costs – How do they manifest ?
Fraternities require fixed member-wide payments per semester to be self-sufficient. Semester dues form the basis of the chapter’s semesterly budget and are direct means by which the chapter accomplishes its major goals regarding housing, event and ceremony planning, philanthropy outreach, social activities, and recruitment events. Fraternity dues may range from between $700 to over $2000 a semester, depending on the school and chapter— and in the vast majority of cases, one cannot become a member without fulfilling these financial means. An additional fee required by all Greek Life institutions is the new member initiation fee, which although not as astounding when compared to semester dues, is one that will cost students around $100.
Aside from the fixed fees, fraternity membership entails a multitude of other optional, yet highly encouraged payments. Purchasing clothing and merchandise displaying one’s Greek Letters (for oneself and new recruits) and philanthropic service and donations, are aspects which are all part of being considered an ‘active’ brother or sister in the chapter. Most importantly though is the incidental cost of living in the fraternity house— where requirement varies from chapter to chapter— however, is a quintessential part of involvement. In many cases, specifically at large Universities with strong Greek Life history, these fraternity/sorority houses are large, historic houses which have been beautifully preserved over the years. For this reason, the cost of living may be greater than it would be to live in surrounding apartments and much greater than merely living from home, as many college students tend to do.
Long Term Spillovers:
This paradigm has brought rise to the onset of many appalling problems associated with fraternities—and as such— has played a major role in the modern stigmatization of Greek Life. With thousands of diverse students having been pushed away from Greek Life, incoming fraternity classes have become homogeneized into beacons of primarily wealthy, white Americans for years. This homogeneity within fraternities perpetuates extreme levels of toxic masculinity where individual’s from varying backgrounds— with LGBTQ students, racial minorities, and women— become primary targets for victimization. This elitist paradigm of Greek Life perpetuates the systemic issues of white privalege and rape culture. We’re currently trapped in an endless cycle of wealthy white Americans leaving the fraternity and younger, possibly wealthier white Americans taking their places.
What can be done:
University affiliated Greek Life institutions deserve assistance from the top. Universities should provide subsidies towards Greek Life membership for individuals of low socioeconomic status. With many fraternities and sororities having been on campus for such long periods of times—for some decades, and for others centuries— Greek life has created an immense network of alumni donors with a strong affinity for their alma mater. With current university endowments, distributing finances towards affiliated institutions will help take Greek life to the next level and do the same for Universities.
- Jozkowski, Kristen N., and Jacquelyn D. Wiersma-Mosley. “The Greek System: How Gender Inequality and Class Privilege Perpetuate Rape Culture.” Family Relations, vol. 66, no. 1, 2017, pp. 89–103., https://doi.org/10.1111/fare.12229.
- “The Cost of Sororities and Fraternities.” Frank Financial Aid, 24 Mar. 2022, https://withfrank.org/how-to-pay-for-college/what-do-i-need-to-prepare-for-college/budgeting/the-cost-of-sororities-and-fraternities/#:~:text=Extra%20Charges&text=You%20may%20only%20pay%20%245,with%20the%20appropriate%20Greek%20letters.
- DeAmelio-Rafferty, Lynne. “How Much Do Fraternities and Sororities Cost?” Edmit.png, https://www.edmit.me/blog/how-much-do-fraternities-and-sororities-cost.
- Buttar, Shaan. “ HOW GREEK ALUMNI BENEFIT THE ENTIRE COLLEGE COMMUNITY.” Room for Debate, 3 May 2017, https://blogs.elon.edu/roomfordebate/shaan-buttar-how-can-greek-alumni-benefit-the-entire-collegiate-community/#:~:text=According%20to%20the%20Elite%20Daily,donated%20to%20universities%20in%20total.