I have had several occasions the past few weeks to spend time talking with women of position in my GLO and NAtional Panhellenic. While chatting and dissecting the ins and outs of sorority recruitment throughout the US these ladies implored me to write about the financial commitments of joining a sorority.
The cost of sorority life varies from campus to campus. Just as each and every chapter on each and every campus is different so are their dues, house bills ect. However they generally all fall into the same categories…dues, house bills, fines and “extras”.
If you are contemplating going through recruitment the first thing you need to do is to sit down and have a heart to heart with your parents about the monetary costs. How do you find out these costs? My first suggestion is to call your campuses Panhellenic or Greek Life Office. They should have records and stats on dues for the various sororities on campus. Often they will give you an “average” cost but there are some “hidden” fees that are usually not included in the number given.
Let’s start with the “known” numbers.
Sororities are non-profit organizations that operate through dues and donations. As a collegiate member you will have dues that you are expected to pay. They have budgets and bills just like the rest of us. When they “bid” a pledge class they are counting on the fact that those girls are going to hold up their financial end of the agreement.
Let’s dissect a “typical” sorority bill.
Depending on the campus you are at sorority bills may come from your housing corp board or a Greek management company like Greek Resources or Greek Capital Management (these are just 2 of many companies that handle Greek finances). Usually you are billed by semester with a set “due date” for the bill to be paid. In some instances you can elect for a small fee to disperse the bill over several months rather than paying the entire bill in one payment.
So what’s usually on a “sorority bill”? Typically a new pledges first bills will be a bit more than initiated members. This is due to several factors that include one time only fees that are incurred at the time of pledgeship and initiation. So lets say you have just pledged a sorority and your first bill arrives…here’s what might be on it. Remember this is just a sample as rates can vary from campus to campus. Also note that this particular New Member is not living “in” her sorority house but a dorm and so that housing fee would be separate. Finally, this bill is typical of a sorority where the New Member would be eating all of her meals at the sorority.
Dues and Fees for Sorority New Member XYZ
Meals: $1,490.00 this covers the costs associated with providing members with three (3) meals per day in the Chapter house, Monday-Thursday, and two (2) meals on Friday. this also includes game day meals served on home football games and “special” meals provided during Finals Week (breakfast at mid-night). Snacks are available in the kitchen area 24/7.
Out of House Rent (AKA Parlor fees): $395.00 . This fee is only charged to out of house members, it is included in the Room Rent of members living in. This covers the usage and daily expenses associated with operating the Chapter house, including utilities, employees salaries ect. IF a chapter does not have a “house” then this fee would cover the rent and usage of meeting rooms for chapter meetings and the fees involved.
Building Fund: $250.00 This fee covers the costs associated with short-term capital improvements, including repairing/replacing furnishings and equipment. Note: IF a sorority is in the process of or planning to build a new structure this part of the bill may see an increase. In many cases the sorority will launch a capital campaign to procure funds from their alumni to pay for the structure but ultimately the sorority bill most likely will see an increase.
Chapter Dues: $570.00 Dues cover each member’s attendance at and involvement with their chapter’s educational, social and philanthropic events. In most cases sororities do not charge for “social” events, however this can vary from campus to campus.
Pledge Fee: $100.00
Initiation Fee: $150.00
Pin Fee: $150.00 This is the fee charges for a basic members pin. The New Member will have the ability to “upgrade” and then will be required to pay the additional difference.
So the basic bill for a first semester new member would be: $3,105.00. I always tell girls that this bill can vary by about 15-20%. Remember this is per semester! The good news is that the Pledge fee, Initiation fee and Pin fee are one time fees and so the second semester bill will go down by $400.00.
I came across this financial spread sheet from Auburn University. Auburn doesn’t have sorority houses but utilizes meeting rooms. Thought I would list it here for comparison. You should also note that this is YEARLY and the PIN fee is not included.
Sorority facility fee: $150 each semester (paid directly to the university)
Pledge fee: $75.00 (paid to the sorority)
Initiation fee: $135.00 (paid to the sorority)
National dues: $134.57 yearly (paid to the sorority)
Semester dues: $997.30 [$498.65 per semester] (paid to the sorority)
Possible additional costs per semester: $130.00 (paid to the sorority)
Total cost of first year: $1,580.00 (includes $300 facility fee)
Total cost of each other year: $1,230.00 (includes $300 facility fee)
Please remember that a sorority’s actual cost will vary from the above numbers and are within 15% of these estimates. Also, please be aware that each of our sororities offers payment plan options.
Big difference right???? As I said it differs greatly from campus to campus and it will also differ from chapter to chapter. A perfect example of that is at The University of Alabama. Alabama has several sororities and fraternities that carry the distinction of being known as “Old Row”…for some its social recognition but basically what it boils down to is that these sororities and fraternities pay a fee to be sponsored by a particular beer company and they pass that fee onto their members. What this means is Old Row bills are larger than New Row.
There are other “sorority” costs that you will not find on your house bill. T-shirts, sunglasses, lanyards, koozies, sweatshirts, baseball hats, zaps …..they make then for EVERY occasion possible!!!! Some chapters will have what they call a “Purchase Fund Account”. Members are asked to contribute a set fund (in our case it was $300) at the beginning of the year to cover the cost of t-shirts our daughter would want to purchase. Each time she ordered a shirt the account was debited the shirt amount. We were sent a bill each month letting us know how much remained in the account. Chapters like this because they do not have to hound girls to pay for shirts. The down fall is that if you have a daughter like mine, she didn’t keep track of what she ordered and before we knew it she had plowed through the $300 and more (thank goodness we had put a credit card on file so that they could just tap it at $100 a pop to make up the difference). There are also extras like clothes….swaps outfits (sometimes they are themed) and presents for Big Sis/Little Sis activities. Again..a discussion about expenditures that are incurred beside the house bill is recommended.
Lastly a little about time, talents and fines. I have expounded on this before. Being in a sorority is just not about going to swaps and social events..it so much more. Members are expected to be involved, get good grades, attend sisterhood activities, represent the sorority in campus wide events, attend panhellenic events and attend all sorority related meetings. Many sororities have in place a system of fines where if a member does not participate in a required event or meeting, falls below a required GPA or has an issue on campus, she is called before the sorority’s Standards Board and in some cases is assessed a fine. Those fines are just like her sorority bill…they are expected to be paid.
Talking with different chapters on several campuses this year they each lamented that they had girls who received bids but were unprepared for the financial obligations. In these cases the girls dropped, did not initiate and if this happens enough it then leaves the sorority in a financial bind. So…….Do yourself a favor….have the “financial” discussion before you daughter goes through recruitment..make sure you are all on the same page.