With the loss of in-person events greatly diminishing the Greek life experience, fraternities and sororities are reducing chapter dues or waiving them entirely this fall.
Associate Vice Provost for Student Affairs Tamara Greenfield King said each fraternity and sorority sets its own membership costs based on the individual chapter expenses and respective national organization fees. In addition to reducing chapter dues, some chapters are also offering scholarships to members seeking financial assistance.
Chapter dues for the eight sororities under the Panhellenic Council can range from $250 to $931 a semester and $200 to $1,200 a semester for the 27 fraternities under the Interfraternity Council, according to the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life website.
Chapters such as Phi Gamma Delta, commonly known as FIJI, and Sigma Kappa are only charging partial dues due to the loss of in-person experience.
"I feel like the current dues are more than reasonable," Wharton sophomore and FIJI member Diego Noriega said. "Charging full dues wouldn't make any sense."
While Noriega declined to reveal the exact amount FIJI is charging for dues, he said members are paying less than half the usual amount for the fall semester.
Leftover money from its spring budget when the in-person semester was cut short in March due to the coronavirus outbreak gave FIJI the flexibility to only require partial dues from its members, Noriega added. For students who still cannot afford the chapter dues, he said the fraternity is offering financial aid to ensure members can cover the cost.
College senior and Sigma Kappa President Emma Britez said Sigma Kappa is also using credit from the previous semester, allowing the sorority to reduce chapter dues to the "bare minimum." Britez also refused to specify the exact amount in order to keep members' finances private.
Sigma Delta Tau, however, is waiving chapter dues entirely this semester, Wharton senior and Sigma Delta Tau President Rachel Brenner said.
“When we were looking at the upcoming semester, we recognized that a lot of people are going to have financial hardships with their families as a result of COVID and we didn’t want SDT to be an additional burden,” Brenner said.
Brenner cited great financial flexibility thanks to the money left over from its spring budget. Much of this money has been used to cover the sorority’s fee owed to its national organization, which is normally covered by members' chapter dues.
The COVID-19 pandemic has ironically strengthened the sorority’s financial position, Brenner said. A portion of SDT's budget dedicated to “local fees" meant to cover events like formals and charities will go unused due to the virtual nature of the semester and has helped eliminate the need for chapter dues.
Engineering junior and SDT treasurer Phoebe Weiser added SDT still has some money budgeted for this semester for Zoom premium memberships or socially distanced outdoor meet ups.
Brenner acknowledged that SDT is in a unique position in that it can cover all members' dues while most other Greek organizations will still have to charge partial dues.
“Most chapters didn’t have the flexibility that SDT did,” Brenner said. “The reality is that nationals are still charging dues and we were fortunate to have that leftover money, but a lot of organizations aren’t in that position.”
King encouraged students struggling to pay dues to look into financial aid opportunities and scholarships offered by individual chapters.
Greek life operations for spring 2021 is rife with uncertainty, as it is still unclear whether Penn will open campus or remain closed next semester. Weiser also noted that Greek organizations will not have access to the leftover funds they had going into the fall semester, potentially putting chapters in difficult financial situations if they continue virtually in the spring.
Brenner, in the meantime, calls for understanding and patience from the student body.
“I would urge people to be understanding about [Greek] leadership during this time,” said Brenner. “They’re trying to work with national organizations and balance all the stakeholders involved. It’s important to understand their situation as well.”