For some, joining a fraternity or sorority at Penn could mean breaking the bank.
As several freshmen discovered during recruitment this semester, joining a Greek chapter on campus includes paying dues that some believe are unreasonably high.
Wharton and Engineering freshman Dhruv Maheshwari — who decided not to join a fraternity this semester — described the current Greek system as “elitist.”
“I’ve heard from friends that the dues can be pretty expensive,” he said. Maheshwari believes groups like the Interfraternity and Panhellenic councils should do more to offer scholarships to low-income students, in addition to cost-saving options that are available at individual chapter houses.
A Wharton and College freshman — who wished to remain anonymous in order to avoid disclosing her financial situation — said she dropped out of the sorority recruitment process upon realizing the cost of joining a sorority.
“They were a lot more expensive than I expected,” she said. “I was not too sure what they were going toward. It was definitely one of the reasons I decided not to go through with it.”
While College junior and Panhel President Jill Wang acknowledged that paying dues “may be an issue for some,” she highlighted that each individual sorority has payment plans in place to ease this financial burden.
According to the 2012 Panhellenic Recruitment Guide, the basic sorority dues for the first year can range anywhere between $250 to $775. However, things like “new member fees” and “badge fees” can add to the total cost.
Panhel intends to expand its centralized scholarship fund this year, which Wang hopes will be able to cover the full dues of at least one student by next year.
“We are always working to expand and add diversity to our Greek system,” she said. “We want to encompass as large a community as possible in terms of socioeconomic status.”
However, Wharton and Engineering freshman Xiaolei Cong, a pledge at fraternity Alpha Chi Rho, disagrees with the idea of a scholarship fund.
“I don’t understand why a third party would sponsor your fraternity experience, when you will be the only one benefiting from it,” Cong said. “I think [paying dues] is very much part of the fraternity experience. Even at bid night, the speaker told us that we have to make a commitment to our fraternity, and that includes a financial commitment.”
Cong, who estimated that fraternity dues can cost between $500 to $1,000 for the first semester, believes the high dues are ultimately “worth it.”
While many individual chapters offer their own scholarship funds, some of these financial resources are given based on factors other than demonstrated need. For example, factors like involvement in the house, GPA and extracurricular activities may influence who receives a scholarship.
Maheshwari disagrees with these means of approaching financial aid.
“The scholarships should not be merit based, but rather income based,” he said.
For Wharton and Engineering junior Parker Schabel, who is president of Pi Kappa Alpha, the cost of fraternity dues is due to the fact that approximately 30-percent of the funds collected go to the national chapter.
Schabel added that 20 percent of dues then go toward a “quite expensive” specialty liability clause, which adds to further expense. The clause is in place in case anything goes wrong in the fraternity, he said.
College junior and IFC President David Shapiro said that while the IFC does not offer any scholarships, new members are free to approach their individual chapters if they require financial help.
“I think that if there is a kid who can’t pay that really wants to join a fraternity, and that fraternity really wants the kid, they can make it happen,” he said. “While the cost of dues are high, the benefits far outweigh the costs.”