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Average cost of Greek life

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group of college students walking on a campus quad
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Going to college provides a bevy of new experiences, so much so that it can feel overwhelming at times. Greek life — fraternities and sororities — provide a community and plenty of opportunities to network.

That said, there’s no denying the costs associated with joining these organizations. You’ll pay annual dues, social events and potentially housing. These costs can add thousands to your bill each semester.

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Key takeaways
  • There are about 750,000 members nationwide in fraternities or sororities.1
  • There are 9 million Greek life alumni in the U.S. 2
  • 78 percent of fraternity members reported excellent to good mental health and well-being. 3
  • Sorority or fraternity affiliated alumni are more likely than nonaffiliated alumni to find a good job quickly after graduation (51 percent vs. 36 percent)4
  • Kappa Sigma is the largest fraternity with over 250,000 living members.
  • The largest sorority in the world is Chi Omega, with over 390,000 members.
  • 79 percent of fraternity members say they have been exposed to diversity in opinions, cultures and values while part of Greek life. 5

What is Greek life?

Greek life consists of fraternities and sororities within colleges and universities. These organizations are meant to be a way for like-minded students to foster a sense of community and academia. A fraternity is often only for those who identify as men, while a sorority is a space just for those who identify as women.

Traditionally, there are a few types of fraternities and sororities, including:

  • Social — Many Greek life organizations are social-based. They’ll almost always be divided up by gender identity, and they often focus on building character and growing personal relationships among your fraternity or sorority.
  • Service — These organizations are often based around community service, and many are not gendered and they aren’t exclusive, so you can join other groups as well.
  • Honors — Honors organizations let new recruits skip the usual pledge process because these will be based on GPA. Often, only students with the highest GPAs will be considered.
  • Religious — As you may assume, these fraternities and sororities are based on religious ideals. For example, there are many Christian-based organizations and others are emerging for groups such as Muslims.
  • Ethnic or cultural —There are many Greek life organizations based around cultural and ethnic backgrounds. For example, many universities have Black organizations where recruitment priority is given to Black students first. In general, anyone can typically pledge, but these organizations are meant to help POC students find a community that understands and supports them.
  • Professional — Professional Greek life organizations are based on mutual career goals. Your time in your organization will be used for networking, and many groups stay active even after graduation.

What happens within a fraternity or sorority? Most people immediately imagine the fraternities and sororities depicted in television shows, with frat “bros” chugging beer and committing acts of hazing.

Any reputable college or university will tell you that’s incorrect. Greek life is meant to create a safe space for students with social, cultural or professional similarities. Just like other extracurricular activities, you will need to put in some time to get the most out of your time in your fraternity or sorority. You’ll participate in social mixers and networking events, and you often will do community service regularly.

Is Greek life worth it?

At this point, you might be wondering why someone would pay a bunch of money on top of the cost of college to join a frat or sorority. Well, there’s a reason these organizations have been around for hundreds of years.

In general, being a part of Greek life can be beneficial to building leadership and job skills on and off campus. In fact, in a recent Gallup poll, 51 percent of Greek organization members reported they had a job already lined up for after graduation, compared to 36 percent of non-affiliated members. This alone can be a driving factor in joining Greek life. It gives you major connections you otherwise wouldn’t have. Some very popular names have been a part of Greek societies. Just a few include:

  • Bill Clinton — Phi Beta Kappa
  • Elizabeth Warren — Gamma Kappa
  • Aretha Franklin — Delta Sigma Theta
  • Will Ferrell — Delta Tau Delta
  • Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — Alpha Phi Alpha
  • Stephen Spielberg — Theta Chi

While students join Greek life organizations to gain a social experience in college and professional experience after, these organizations were also created, in part, to give back to the communities. Philanthropy is a huge part of Greek life. University of Central Florida Greek life students donated a record-breaking $1,065,391 in 2017.

Breaking down the costs of Greek life

Hearing that some dues are in the thousands each semester can be shocking for new pledges. However, your dues will differ depending on the school you go to, the fraternity or sorority you choose, and whether you’re paying for housing. Still, no matter what college you attend, every Greek organization will charge fees of some kind. These organizations often don’t get funding from the colleges and rely on these dues to run the organization.

If Greek life is something you’re actively seeking out when looking for the right college, consider these costs.

Recruitment registration fee

You can think of the recruitment fee as an administrative fee. There will be some paperwork involved when you first register as a recruit, especially if you’re going to live in the fraternity or sorority house. On average, these fees will typically range from $50 – $150.6

New member dues

Your first year will likely be the most expensive year for you as a Greek life member. New members will often pay more than senior members, and their dues will go towards maintaining housing, supporting the activities that happen in the house, and educational resources, among other things. While how much you’ll pay will depend on your university, generally, you’ll pay $600 – $900 in dues your first year. 7

Active member dues

Active member dues are paid by students in their second, third and fourth years. You’ll usually pay these fees each semester and you’ll pay $300 – $600 on average. These dues cover much of the same that new member dues do, including social and educational events, potentially a meal plan, and any other activities the group takes part in.

Social expenses

Fraternities and sororities tend to host a lot of social events. These can include parties, networking events and off-campus activities. Plus, for many of these events there’s a business casual requirement when it comes to dress code, so you’ll need to factor in this cost as well. You’ll also want to consider the cost of transportation and eating out. These won’t be requirements per se, but many students want to participate.

Room and board expenses

Living in a Greek house is not usually a requirement, but just like living in the regular dorms adds to your college experience, so does living with your other fraternity or sorority members. Housing costs are going to run up your bill substantially. You’ll face costs of anywhere between $1,000 to $7,000 per semester. 8

Extra charges

Joining a Greek organization comes with a big commitment. So much so that some organizations will fine you if you violate their rules. These fines are so varied between organizations that it’s difficult to find an average, but ensuring you completely understand the rules of your organization can help you avoid this cost.

Alumni dues

For some Greek organizations, even alumni will pay dues. They’re often drastically cheaper than student dues since you don’t get the same level of involvement. These dues are optional most of the time and are often referred to as “donations.” If you want to retain your status as a Greek life member and get access to the benefits this offers you, you’ll sometimes need to pay these dues.

Costs of Greek life at different schools

How much does a sorority cost?

School Recruitment Registration Fee New Member Fees Member Fees (No Housing) Housing and Member Fees
Ole Miss $150 – $200 Disclosed upon acceptance $50 Disclosed upon acceptance
University of Alabama $350 $4,165.59 per semester on average $3,696.35 per semester on average $7,355.82 per semester on average
University of Arizona $100-150 $2,438 on average $1,840 on average $4,125 on average
Syracuse University Included in the new and active member fees $100 – $3,000 $200 – $2,000 Included in the higher end of the new and active member fees
Miami University (Ohio) Included in new member fees $663 per semester on average $410 per semester on average Varies depending on the house

How much does a fraternity cost?

School Recruitment Registration Fee New Member Fees Member Fees (No Housing) Housing and Member Fees
Ole Miss $150 – $200 Disclosed upon acceptance $50 Disclosed upon acceptance
University of Alabama Fee included in new member fees $4,170.03 per semester on average $3,621.52 per semester on average $7,465.17 per semester on average
University of Arizona $100-150 $1,519 on average $1,216 on average $5,126 on average
Syracuse University Included in the new and active member fees $100 – $3,000 $200 – $2,000 Included in the higher end of the new and active member fees
Miami University (Ohio) Included in new member fees $724 per semester on average $647 per semester on average $2,400 – $5,000 depending on the house

How to make Greek life more affordable

Yes, you’ll need to pay to participate in Greek life, but there are ways to circumvent the upfront cost if you can’t afford it. Here are four ways you can make your dues a little more affordable:

  • Scholarships — You can often use academic or personal scholarships to pay for Greek life dues.
  • Payment plans — Most Greek life organizations offer some sort of payment plan that can help make dues more manageable. Talk with the financial aid office and the leadership within the organization to see if you qualify for any of these plans. They’re often granted to those with limited income.
  • Get a job within the organization — Talk with your organization’s leadership and see if there are any jobs within the organization. Much of this will be admin work, but you may be able to get your room and board covered with some of these positions.
  • Credit cards — If you need a short amount of time to come up with the money, using a credit card to cover your dues can help buy you that time. This should be a last resort and only done if you have a plan to pay in full within a few months. Look for a credit card that offers a 0 percent intro APR so that you can pay off your balance without incurring any interest. Even if you don’t need a credit card for paying your dues, you should consider using one for small purchases throughout college. Building credit as a college student can give you a leg up after graduation. Here are our picks for the best credit cards.

How to get involved in Greek life

Fraternities and sororities aren’t shy about getting their names out around campus. When the school year starts (and at some schools, before classes start), you’ll see fliers around campus and members of various Greek life organizations out and about looking for recruits. This is the time to ask questions and get a better sense of what each sorority or fraternity offers. As for the actual steps on how to get into a sorority or fraternity, you’ll do the following:

  • Do online research and register for rush — It’s a good idea to investigate Greek life at your school several months before rush actually takes place. Typically, there will be a registration deadline for rush, so you’ll want to be on top of that if you’re interested.
  • Attend orientation sessions — At informational sessions, you’ll learn about the organization and the expectations. You’ll also be told the costs for dues and any other fees.
  • Going through rush — Rush week will look slightly different depending on your organization. Typically, you’ll attend formal and social events where you’ll learn more about the organizations and they’ll learn more about you. And let’s be clear here: you should not undergo any hazing during this time. If you do, this is against the code of conduct for the organization and you should report this to the school administration immediately.
  • Receiving a bid — After rush week, the different organizations that want you to join will offer you a “bid.” You can refuse a bid or accept one, but certain organizations will require you to only pledge to them. Once you accept, you’ll go through the initiation process, which will be unique to each org.

FAQs

The bottom line

Becoming a member of a sorority or fraternity comes with a lot of responsibilities and a relatively high cost. That said, many find it worthwhile. In the last few years especially, there’s been a turning point in Greek life. Many organizations enforce strict rules against hazing, with automatic dismissal if you’re caught doing so. Now, the focus has shifted back to the community and giving students a once-in-a-lifetime social and academic experience.

Sources

  1. New poll points to college and career benefits of Greek life despite criticism; The Hechinger Report, 2021
  2. New poll points to college and career benefits of Greek life despite criticism; The Hechinger Report, 2021
  3. The benefits of single-sex fraternity involvement; The University of Tennessee Knoxville, 2021
  4. Fraternities and Sororities: Experiences and outcomes in college, work, and life; Gallup, NIC and NPC, 2021
  5. The benefits of single-sex fraternity involvement; The University of Tennessee Knoxville, 2021
  6. What is the cost of sororities and fraternities? FRANK, 2022
  7. What is the cost of sororities and fraternities? FRANK, 2022
  8. What is the cost of sororities and fraternities? FRANK, 2022
Written by
Christopher Murray
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Christopher Murray is a personal finance writer for a number of reputable sites including Bankrate. Six years ago, Christopher started as the single staff writer for a budding finance blog, He worked his way all the way up to Senior Editor. Ultimately, the freedom that freelance writing brings was calling and he decided to go back to writing full-time.
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