This spring, 405 freshmen became the newest class of girls to join the nine Panhellenic sororities on campus.
There are various reasons that students at Penn choose to rush, from wanting to make more friends to having a go-to place for their social activities. But for some, their financial situation proves to be a barrier to them joining Greek life.
A Wharton sophomore — who preferred to remain anonymous to avoid negative reactions from friends in Greek life — rushed last spring, but dropped out at the last moment due to financial reasons. Her family was unwilling to pay for her dues, and she felt taking on another job to pay for them herself would be too much. The sophomore does not receive financial aid from Penn.
“I probably somehow could have made it work, but I wasn’t willing to work all the time just so I could be in a sorority,” she said.
In 2015, the cost of joining a sorority for freshmen not living in-house ranged from $550 to $917 for the spring semester.
Zeta Tau Alpha was the most expensive Panhellenic sorority at Penn, costing $4845 over four years. This figure excludes the costs of living in sorority housing, as well as other miscellaneous attached expenses such as clothes, gifts, and transportation for various social events.
The least expensive sorority was Chi Omega, with its members paying $3035 over four years.
The sophomore originally rushed because the sororities told her there were many financial support options available for those struggling to pay the dues. However, she felt frustrated when she realized at the end of the process that these options were exaggerated.
The Panhellenic Council founded the Panhellenic Scholarship Fund in 2013 to “help multiple women who need financial assistance with their sorority dues”. That year, the fund provided $3540 split between 12 recipients. This year, 17 scholarships were awarded to Panhellenic women for a total amount of $3,830.
“I felt I was kind of misled, because a lot of people gave me the impression that they help you out, so I should go ahead and keep doing rush,” the sophomore said. However, it turned out that the Panhellenic Council didn’t “seem like they like to give out aid.”
The Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life at Penn states that it does not provide financial assistance for sorority or fraternity dues, as Greek life is an optional part of a college experience.
For those hoping to join Greek life, money and connections can often become one and the same.
College and Engineering freshman Avery Bang cited sororities’ alumni networks as a major reason she chose to rush. An international student, Bang does not have family or friends in the United States to help her find internships or jobs.
“So much of how we get jobs is based off of who we know,” she said. “I don’t have connections [because] my dad doesn’t work here [in the States]. Joining a sorority would be an investment for the future.”
Although Bang is on a significant amount of financial aid, she was still willing to pay the full price of Greek life if applying for scholarships didn’t work. However, this spring, she discovered money wasn’t the only barrier to getting into a sorority. While Bang ended up not getting into her top choice, another girl she knew who had been friends with some board members got a bid from the same sorority.
“The reason I wanted to join a sorority was to get connections, but in order to join the sorority, I needed to have connections,” Bang said.
After she quit rush, the sophomore had a mandatory meeting with Megan Gaffney, the associate director of programming at OFSL, to explain why she wasn’t joining a sorority. She brought up her frustration about the lack of scholarship opportunities, to which Gaffney nodded in agreement but did not “seem very interested” in changing, Bang recalled.
The sophomore walked away from the experience with the impression that Greek life was “skewed towards richer people.”
“I felt like basically if you weren’t rich or your parents weren’t willing to shell out the money, there’s no chance of you participating [in Greek life],” she said. “I kind of ended up wasting my time.”
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