The costs of going Greek

Carrie Rupp

Sorority life requires a large investment, but pays off with friends

For Anna Larson, sorority life was not always appealing. She said she never expected to join a sorority, but during her junior year of college, her view changed.

“I would pay 10 times the amount I pay to keep the friends I have made and the experiences I have had,” said Larson, who is president of the Alpha Xi Delta sorority.

Once established in a sorority, the issue of cost may no longer be a factor, but for many women looking to join a sorority, cost can be a deterrent, Larson said.

“I understand where people are coming from when they say ‘Greeks buy their friends’ because I used to think that way, too,” Larson said. “But I’ve learned there is no price that can be put on the experiences, the opportunities and the friendships that joining a sorority has brought me — the money doesn’t even matter.”

Joining a sorority can be a financial burden. Members are required to pay dues, a charge or fee for membership in a club or organization, each semester. Payments can range between $200 and $500, said Beth Gittons, assistant director in the Office of Campus Life.

In addition to the payments, she said the fallacy of sororities having a ‘pot of gold’ in the basement of their chapter house as a result of the sorority hoarding money from its members, is not true and extremely frustrating.

“Each chapter has an operating budget for the year that goes towards certain things,” Gittons said. “Every chapter is very open — the members know where their money is going.”

Although every chapter’s budget is different, and all require payments for different things, one similar payment each sorority must include in its dues is a fee that goes straight to its national chapter, Gittons said.

National dues can cover a variety of things, such as leadership activities, liability insurance, national meetings, physical maintenance of the national headquarters and many other things, Gittons said.

Similarly, the remainder of the semester dues goes toward the local chapter’s payment for traditional and everyday things.

“As in any organization, you need money just to keep things afloat,” said Megan Kohler, Chi Omega’s treasurer. She listed philanthropy, recruitment events, retreats, formal events and everyday supplies, such as stationery, decorations and photocopies, as areas where a majority of the money goes.

Gittons explained that different sororities have different ways of collecting payments. One option is a “pay up front” method, which requires each member to pay a lump sum at the beginning of each semester. This sum covers all possible expenses for the entire semester. Another option is a “pay as you go” method. This option requires each member to pay a required amount of money, but it does not require members to pay up front for events in which a member may not participate.

Larson’s sorority, Alpha Xi Delta, uses the “pay as you go method.” She said it’s great for people who are tight on cash or don’t care to go to certain events.

“Since the money for events like formal aren’t included in dues, you have the option to save your money and not go,” Larson said.

For members who are having financial difficulty, most sororities offer weekly or monthly payment plans.

“Money shouldn’t be the reason that you aren’t able to stay in a sorority,” Kohler said. “If someone needs help paying, we’ll work something out.”

Gittons agreed with Kohler.

“I haven’t come across a chapter that wasn’t willing to work with their members to help them pay their dues,” Gittons said. “Life happens. When things aren’t going your way and you need help paying, that’s when your sorority really pulls together, showing the strength of their sisterhood and helping one another get by.”

Paying $200 to $500 per semester is not cheap, Gittons said. But the former Delta Zeta member at the University of Missouri at St. Louis believes it is a bargain for the things one can get out of it.

“You are paying for the opportunities, the education, the leadership skills, making a difference through philanthropy and community involvement and the lifelong privilege and commitment of being a member of something,” she said. “To some, they may consider that paying for your friends. But really, I think you are making a down payment on your future. And if friendship is a result of it too, then it’s even better.”

Contact Greek life reporter Carrie Rupp at [email protected].