Over nine million individuals are affiliated with Greek-letter organizations in the United States (The University of New Mexico, n.d.). Among them, the first female astronaut, the first female senator, 85% of Fortune 500 company executives, and almost every president and vice-president of the United States since 1825 (The University of New Mexico, n.d.).
Without a doubt, Greek-letter organizations have produced a great number of leaders in different sectors of society. It is common to highlight these achievements when introducing membership prospects to undergraduate students. However, there is one pragmatic consideration that must also be discussed prior to joining Greek life: its cost. It is extremely important that an individual is informed of the fees that will come with being part of a sisterhood or a brotherhood, especially because college education in itself is already so expensive.
This guide will introduce facts and figures relevant to Greek life. It will also attempt to answer the question “how much do sororities and fraternities cost for undergraduate students?”
How Much Do Sororities and Fraternities Cost Table of Contents
- Key Fraternity and Sorority Membership Statistics
- The Average Cost of a Fraternity or Sorority
- Costs to Consider When Joining a Fraternity or Sorority
- Paying for the Greek Life
- Is Greek Life Worth It?
Key Fraternity and Sorority Membership Statistics
Currently, there are 123 Greek-letter organizations in the United States (The University of Mexico, n.d.). Here are some preliminary data on these organizations that you might want to know prior to delving deeper into relevant financial matters:
- A study conducted by Gallup (2021) shows that students affiliated with sororities and fraternities have better emotional support and experiential learning experiences than students with no Greek life affiliation.
- According to The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2019, 9.1% of students in all baccalaureate institutions are planning to join a fraternity or sorority (Cooperative Institutional Research Program or CIRP, 2019). The percentage of students who want to join Greek life is higher in public four-year colleges (9.4%) than private four-year colleges (8.8%) (CIRP, 2019). Conversely, the percentage is higher in private universities (10.4%) than in public ones (8.8%) (CIRP, 2019).
- Washington and Lee University is the school with the highest percentage of male (79%) and the second-highest percentage of female (70%) undergraduate students affiliated with a fraternity and sorority consecutively in the United States in Fall 2020 (U.S. News, n.d.).
- The University of South has the highest percentage of female undergraduate students in sororities (72%) in the United States as of Fall 2020 (U.S. News, n.d.).
- Chi Si is the fraternity with the highest property value at $1.64 million (Flanagan, 2021).
- Alpha Delta Gamma’s property amounts to $1.74 million, making it the sorority with the highest property value in the United States (Flanagan, 2021).
- Tau Kappa Epsilon is the largest fraternity in the United States with 226 active chapters and over 293,000 initiated members.
- With more than 209,000 initiated students, Alpha Omicron Phi is the largest sorority in the United States. Currently, it has 136 collegiate chapters and 156 alumni chapters.
The Average Cost of a Fraternity or Sorority
Do you have to pay to be in a frat or sorority? The short answer is yes. In fact, even prior to becoming a member, you will have to pay an initiation or registration fee. This is only the first on the long list of fees you will have to pay as a Greek-letter organization affiliate.
In Washington and Lee University, the school with one of the highest Greek life participation, members have to pay an average of $3,314 per semester for Panhellenic sorority house non-residents and $14,772 for residents. Average financial charges are even higher for male students who want to join fraternities, with non-house residents needing to prepare $8,815, and house residents, $17,370. These payments cover chapter and national charges, house corporation charges, social, food, and rooms.
Some sororities and fraternities are more transparent than others when it comes to fees. For instance, Tau Kappa Epsilon has published an article on its website discussing its fee structure and budget management. Unfortunately, not all Greek-letter organizations offer the same information to the public. For this reason, it is hard to come up with an estimated average cost of joining a fraternity or sorority. There are articles, however, that claim the price ranges from “two-to-three figures.”
Source: Washingon and Lee University
Costs to Consider When Joining a Fraternity or Sorority
While fees vary greatly from one Greek-letter organization to another, their structures have commonalities that will give readers perspective on how much will be needed should they decide to join one. For instance, as discussed in the previous section, membership fees, house and board fees, social fees, and food fees are all common among fraternities and sororities.
Below are details on what do fraternity dues pay for so you can have a more concrete idea of the potential expenses of going Greek.
- Registration Fees. Someone who desires to pledge to one house must first pay a registration fee that serves as their entry ticket to various recruitment events. Every potential member who has been invited to pledge will have to pay a maximum of three figures to start their Greek life journey.
- Membership Fees. Once one has pledged to a chosen house, he or she will be asked to pay for new member dues, which are typically higher than what one will have to pay as an already active member. Active members pay for both local and national membership. These charges are used to sustain the activities of a Greek-letter organization.
- Social Expenses. Socials are another additional expense for Greek members. Covering the cost of participating in social functions and other activities, these expenses are typically included in their list of dues during the start of the semester. In addition to paying the dues for attending the organization’s events, one will have to prepare extra money for buying attires to match the occasion. There are also other social expenses that come with having to go out with other members of the organization for food or entertainment.
- Room and Board. These fees apply to house residents only and comprise the most expensive fraternity dues. A student will have to weigh carefully whether this is the most practical choice and conducive space for study. The environment is an important consideration for increasing one’s productivity. In some cases, a sorority or fraternity house comes with the benefit of having to spend less on food. Meal plans that come with room and board are typically cheaper than other dining options on the campus.
- Alumni Dues. To continue bearing the name and receiving the benefits of being a member of a Greek-letter organization, one is required to pay fees even after they have already graduated.
- Miscellaneous Expenses. Greek members may be expected to purchase their organization’s merchandise, which often comes in the form of t-shirts, jackets, caps, mugs, and other items. They might also be required to pay for a membership badge.
- Fines. Some Greek-letter organizations charge members for things as simple as being late for a meeting to violating sisterhood or brotherhood rules.
Paying for the Greek Life
As shown in the previous sections, the costs of joining a fraternity or sorority can accumulate to a price beyond affordable for many. If you are still considering pledging to a house but are unsure where to get the money to pay for it, you can consider the options below.
- Payment plans. Inquire about the fee structure of your target organization. Some allow for members to pay over an extended period of time. Knowing the payment plans will allow you to choose one that will work best for your income/spending flow.
- Student loans. If you are treating Greek-letter organization membership as an investment, much like your education, it would make sense to get a loan to afford it. After all, an invitation to pledge can only come during your college years. It would be unfortunate to miss the benefits that come with it. Note, however, that students take an average of two decades or more to pay their student loans.
- Scholarships. Getting a scholarship is one good way to avoid debt while pursuing Greek life. Several institutions, like nonprofit organizations, businesses, and local and national governments, offer scholarships. Some fraternities and sororities also offer scholarships, but admissions into these can be quite competitive.
Is Greek Life Worth It?
Several studies have noted the benefits of becoming affiliated with a Greek-letter organization. One example is a study by Bowman and Holmes in 2017 titled “A Quasi-Experimental Analysis of Fraternity or Sorority Membership and College Student Success.” According to the authors, “For female students, membership has significant positive effects on college GPA and satisfaction at the end of the first year, as well as retention and four-year graduation. For male students, membership significantly decreased first-year GPA, but it was positively related to college satisfaction at the end of the first year as well as retention to the second year” (Bowman and Holmes, 2017).
The benefits of fraternity and sorority membership also go well beyond the four corners of the classroom. Other than a higher GPA, greater college satisfaction, and greater college retention, members will benefit from having their affiliation as an added credential. As mentioned in the introduction, Greek-letter organizations have already produced a lot of leaders on the local and national levels. Members can benefit from having connections with successful alumni in their field. It will also reflect on them positively to be affiliated with a Greek-letter organization when applying for leadership positions.
To date, the most comprehensive account detailing the benefits of a fraternity or sorority membership is a report published by Gallup in 2021. Gallup interviewed more than 3,000 Greek-letter organization alumni. Their findings show that affiliated alumni have reported better college experiences, higher job satisfaction, and better overall wellbeing than their non-affiliated counterparts. Here are some statistical data from that report:
- 23% vs. 14% – affiliated alumni vs. non-affiliated counterparts who strongly agree they had all three emotional support experiences detailed in the study
- 24% vs. 8% – affiliated alumni vs. non-affiliated counterparts who report or strongly agree they had all three experiential learning experiences detailed in the study
- 51% vs. 36% – affiliated alumni vs. non-affiliated alumni employed immediately or within 2 months after graduation
- 52% vs. 33% – affiliated alumni vs. non-affiliated counterparts engaged at work
- 28% vs. 6% – affiliated alumni vs. non-affiliated counterparts thriving in all five aspects of wellbeing
Be Financially Informed Before Pledging
Being a part of a sisterhood or brotherhood will serve you well in life after college. The opportunity to pledge to one house may come to you only a few times, and so it is definitely worthy of serious consideration. You may be thinking about the reputation of the organization, how well its members do academically, and how successful its alumni are, but one angle also worth exploring is the price it will cost you to enjoy all the benefits.
This document has outlined how much do sororities and fraternities cost as well as the commonalities among the fee structures of organizations. It has also discussed some of the financing options available to students for whom the price is quite inaccessible. Given all this information about Greek life finances, one can now begin to truly weigh whether or not it is worth it.
- Bowman, N.A. & Holmes, J.M. (2017). A Quasi-Experimental Analysis of Fraternity or Sorority
Membership and College Student Success. Journal of College Student Development. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1353/csd.2017.0081
- Cooperative Institutional Research Program (2019). The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2019. Retrieved from https://www.heri.ucla.edu/monographs/TheAmericanFreshman2019.pdf
- Flanagan, T (2021). Greek Life Property Value: Fraternities and Sororities with the Largest and Most Valuable Properties. House Method. Retrieved from https://housemethod.com/blog/greek-life-property-value/
- Gallup (2021). Fraternities and Sororities: Experiences and Outcomes in College, Work and Life. Retrieved from https://www.npcwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/2037/2021/07/Fraternity-and-Sorority-Outcomes-Gallup-2021.pdf
- The University of New Mexico (n.d.) Fun Stats. Retrieved from http://greeks.unm.edu/join-a-fraternity-or-sorority/parents/fun-stats.html
- U.S. News (n.d.). Most Students in Fraternities. Retrieved from https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/rankings/most-frats
- U.S. News (n.d.). Most Students in Sororities. Retrieved from https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/rankings/most-sororities
- Washington and Lee University (2021). Financial Obligations. Retrieved from https://my.wlu.edu/student-life/student-activities/greek-life/financial-obligations