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Going Greek Might Save You Money At College

The first Greek organization in our nation was Phi Beta Kappa. They were founded in 1776 at the College of William and Mary. Since those founding years, a great number of fraternity and sorority organizations have made their way to college campuses.

Every year each of the sororities and fraternities do their best during “rush week” to attract new members to their organization. Rush week is filled with events and activities that highlight each chapter’s strengths within the campus community. Sometimes these attributes can be related to philanthropy, social status, academic achievements, etc… Whatever a student is interested in, they are sure to find a Greek organization in which they feel a connection. The ultimate goal of rush week for the fraternity/sorority is to gain new pledges and many students want to be a part of that experience.

So.. if everybody wants the same end result then why does it seem that there is always some hesitation to pull the trigger and make the commitment. One common theme that I have experienced (outside of the social stigma with being Greek or not) is related to pricing. When you join a Greek organization, it is expected that each student contributes their fair share (financially) to the activities of the organization and usually with the upkeep of any house that the organization may be residing in. This financial aspect comes in the form of dues, parlor fees, activity fees, room and board costs, and any other miscellaneous charge that might be incorporated by the local chapter.

This laundry list of fees can be quite intimidating at first. However, you need to compare apples to apples and think about what these fees are providing and if they are actually a cheaper alternative to what you might be paying otherwise for a similar service.

Miscellaneous Fees
For example, let’s look at an activity fee. If the fee is $100 a semester per member and it provides at least one, all expenses paid, social event each month (over the course of 5 months) that would be $20 for each event. Let’s also assume that you are allowed to bring a date (because college social events would be rather boring if both genders were not represented). That would now break your expense down to $10 a person for each event. It has been a while since I have been in the dating scene but I find it hard to believe that you would be able to provide a comparable date night for 2 with only $20. So, based upon my quick review of the activity fee, it sounds like a sound investment (and maybe even a great approach to saving a few bucks).

Eating and Living Expenses
Room and board costs on a college campus can run upwards of $10,000 a year (especially if you are living in college provided housing and utilizing a meal plan). Based upon my experience of working with fraternities and sororities over the years, I can tell you that room and board costs through a Greek organization will be dramatically less than what you would spend elsewhere to eat and live on campus. I would venture to say that fraternity and sorority expenses for food and housing would run you about 30-40% less than what you would incur in charges through traditional college housing and meal plans. A lot of this savings is usually because most Greek organizations have very little overhead and decades of members prior have contributed to paying off the houses in which their current members reside. So, they can afford to cut back on room costs a little.

Food plans through a fraternity or sorority are usually cheaper than traditional university options. However, you get what you pay for. I have witnessed many a fraternity to establish an account at the local pizzeria and have pizza delivered to the house most evenings and some sort of pasta dish for lunch and label that as their meal plan. My guess is that selection probably gets old after a while but if you are looking for cheap eats, you can’t go wrong with pizza.

The only downside (financially) to joining a fraternity or sorority is the dues aspect. Usually dues come in the form of local and national dues and they have to be paid each semester. Dues typically go to cover more of the administrative costs associated with each of the organizations (so it is hard to associate a tangible benefit with them). However, dues don’t tend to be a lot and usually the savings that you garner from some of the other fees (room and board) mentioned above outweigh the cost of the dues.

In Summary
If you are a college student that is debating the financial aspect of whether you should “Go Greek”, I hope this information is helpful. If you are the parent of a college student that is talking about joining a fraternity or sorority, make sure you compare apples to apples when it comes to all the fees. You might be pleasantly surprised to find out that your student’s decision to pledge with a Greek organization may be lighter on your wallet than you originally thought. Not to mention the long term return on investment that your student will receive from all the life-long relationships/friendships that will be established.

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