Do Student Voices

Consider the Cost: Is Joining Greek Life Worth It?

The financial aspect of joining Greek life is an unfortunate reality of joining a chapter on any campus. The costs for Panhellenic sororities and IFC fraternities at Cal can be significant and are necessary to consider before joining Greek life. When considering the cost of joining Greek life, here are a few things to think about. 

Alpha Phi chapter house (Credit: Pinterest).

What is the specific cost of an IFC fraternity or PHC sorority?

Every chapter will have a different specific cost, so it is almost impossible to give one specific cost that will apply across all of Greek life. Typically, joining a fraternity is cheaper than joining a sorority. During the sorority recruitment process in the fall, the Panhellenic Council will provide prospective sorority members with information about the costs of each specific house. The average sorority semester dues are around $1,600 for live-outs per semester.  While every chapter will have variations on this number, this is a good ballpark estimate when considering joining a sorority.  You will also likely have slightly higher dues in your first semester as a new member.

This $1,600 live-out estimated average for sororities is available online at the LEAD Center website FAQs page. The average semesterly fraternity cost for a live-out member is listed as $200-$400 under the “IFC Council” section of the LEAD Center website. If you are planning to live in the chapter facility after your freshman year, you will be paying more than this per semester because you will be paying rent in addition to these dues.  The website estimates that both fraternities and sororities have an additional live-in cost of about $4,500 per semester.  Again, specific costs will vary chapter to chapter. 

What am I actually paying for?

For both sororities and fraternities, each chapter will have a required amount of dues set by their national organizations that all members must pay. This number is a non-negotiable part of every member’s dues, since it is not set by the specific chapter. Joining Greek life at Cal comes with a significant price tag— but what are those dues really paying for? 

The Delta Sigma chapter house (credit: The Daily Californian). 

Since IFC and PHC chapters at Cal have housing facilities that can be used by all members regardless of whether they live at the facility or not, part of your semesterly fees go towards house improvements and maintenance. Sororities all have food services, so meals are made at the chapter house for live-in members, and live-outs are typically allotted a certain number of meals per week at the chapter house. While there are other fees that contribute to the total cost you pay per semester, the main expenses are for food, house improvement, dues, and national fees.

For live-in members, let’s consider the $4,500 semester average for live-in fees that the LEAD Center estimates. Looking at the living fee alone, broken down over four months, this comes out to $1,125 per month. This is actually not far off from some apartment rental prices around Berkeley. Plus, your live-in rent fee will include utilities, wifi, and other amenities. Again, each specific chapter may have a higher or lower base rent cost, so only use these numbers as a guide.

When you choose to move into the chapter facility, this $4,500 will not cover all of your semesterly dues; you will still have expenses like the semesterly fee determined by your national organization that each member must pay. You will also have food costs if your chapter hires a food service. All sororities at Cal have a food service that runs at least five days a week, so the majority of your meals are prepared for you. 

The campus at UC Berkeley (Credit: Instagram @ucberkeleyofficial). 

Will COVID-19 change my Greek life costs?

This  fall, recruitment will be completely virtual. Social events are expected to be virtual for at least fall 2020. It is still unclear how long COVID-19 will impact our ability to be on campus or have in-person events, making it difficult to predict how much and for how long COVID-19 may change your semesterly dues. Panhellenic is hosting virtual info-sessions with more information about how COVID-19 will impact recruitment and Greek events for the fall semester. The info-sessions will be uploaded to YouTube afterwards. For more information about how COVID-19 will impact Greek life and recruitment, those videos can be accessed on the PHC YouTube channel.  

In terms of dues, each specific chapter will mostly be at the will of their housing corporations and national organizations. Since many chapters are allowing the option for members to live in chapter facilities, members who do choose to live-in will still have to pay for things like rent. For members who live-out or who are choosing to stay home for the semester, specific fees for food or using the house may be different for every chapter, especially if those fees will be charged at all.  

The national organizations that oversee chapters at Cal are unlikely to drastically decrease dues, so that is something to consider before joining Greek life during this pandemic. If you are a prospective Greek life member and some form of recruitment does happen in the fall, reaching out to IFC (for fraternities) or PHC (for sororities) leadership members or the LEAD Center will be your best course of action.

If you’re interested in learning more about Greek life at Cal, check out the LEAD Center website, IFC website, or PHC website