When Penn students decide whether or not to participate in Greek life, the cost of dues is often a factor, particularly as the percentage of first-generation, low-income students at Penn continues to grow.
To accommodate the diversity of Penn's student body, some Greek organizations offer financial aid to members who would not otherwise be able to pay the cost of membership. However, these provisions are not uniformly offered across Greek councils at Penn.
Of the three Greek life councils at Penn, the Panhellenic Council is the only organization that provides scholarships for members in all of its eight chapters. The remaining 41 fraternities and sororities that are governed by the Intercultural Greek Council and Interfraternity Council do not receive scholarships from their respective councils. However, students in any Greek organization can apply for scholarships offered by the national organizations their chapters are affiliated with.
College sophomore Anita Itaman, who is vice president of programming for Panhel, said hearing about scholarships was one of the main things that reassured her during the rush process. Itaman, a first-generation, low-income student in Zeta Tau Alpha, receives both a national and campus scholarship to subsidize her dues.
“I personally never realized that [dues] cost as much money as they did, so hearing about the scholarships first on and beginning this was helpful for me to keep in mind if I even wanted to do the process,” Itaman said. “Because like what’s the point of going through the whole process and not being able to, like, support it.”
According to College junior Julia Keyes, who is the vice president of communications and finance for Panhel, the council distributed $17,200 among 80 of the 100 scholarship applications they received this year. These scholarships constitute nearly half of Panhel's budget for each school year.
This number has increased since last year, when Panhel awarded scholarships to 40 out of 60 total applicants. While Panhel dues range from $500-900, its scholarships range from $200-400, and no scholarship covers the full amount for dues.
“I would love to work with IGC and IFC and help them kind of put this scholarship — kind of similar scholarship system into place,” Keyes said. “I know it’s difficult. IFC has rules and IGC has incredibly low funding.”
The IFC has no centralized scholarship program for members of its constituent organizations. The only scholarship option available is through the national organizations associated with each chapter.
Wharton junior Matthew Moore, the judicial inquiry board manager of IFC, said, however, that it is a common practice for fraternities under the IFC to reduce dues for members on a case-by-case basis. Moore, a low-income student in Sigma Phi Epsilon, added that he himself pays reduced dues.
He noted that even members of fraternities with stereotypes for being "super rich" like Castle, "have guys that are paying like nothing for dues."
Moore also indicated that he believed it would be difficult for the IFC to develop a centralized scholarship program like Panhel's because of the national guidelines placed on individual fraternities.
"I think I just wish that people knew more about how chapters dealt with this kind of stuff. I think that — I'm sure that there are a lot of kids who maybe would want to join a fraternity or a sorority who don't because they think it's going to be a financial issue," Moore said. "And that sucks because I've loved being in SigEp. Like, I've loved every minute of it and, like, I've been able to do this as a low-income student."
College junior Shaisa Pittman, a member of Zeta Phi Beta, noted the differences between IGC chapters and Panhel and IFC chapters.
"I do know that [Panhel and IFC] get a lot more financial support from outside maybe because of, like, alum. And doing things to raise money on campus is a lot easier for them," Pittman said.
Ida Thomas, the president of Zeta Phi Beta, said that while her IGC sorority does not have ways to reduce dues for members, it works to be flexible in adjusting payment plans for individuals.
She also mentioned, however, that she does thinks IGC dues are typically less than those of Panhel and IFC, even though the organizations do not earn as much money.
"I definitely think fundraising is a little more complicated when you’re an IGC [organization]. The main reason is because we’re very small, so how much reach can you get when there are only a few of you running around making sure that people know about your fundraiser," she added.
Nonetheless, Thomas said she never wants students to be barred from organizations due to financial constraints.
“I always never want dues to be a reason that we can’t bring a woman into the organization and I think that’s been something that would bother any of my sisters,” Thomas said. "If we see someone can't pay for their dues, we'll pay for them."
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