Greek houses cope with dues, aid

by Colin Barry | 11/12/03 6:00am

Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of articles that will explore how students tackle the costs of college outside of tuition.

As winter rush nears, a new class of Dartmouth students will face a choice of whether or not to join the thousand-plus current undergraduates involved in the Greek system.

New fraternity and sorority members will attend meetings, make new friends -- and start paying hundreds of dollars in Greek dues.

Pledging a Greek organization is a substantial monetary commitment for undergraduates, and many consequently seek some form of financial assistance.

In one sorority contacted by The Dartmouth, officers estimated that half of active sisters received some form of financial aid.

To cope with that challenge, all of the College's six sororities and some fraternities have formal financial aid policies for affiliated undergraduates who have difficulty paying their quarterly dues, Greek officials said.

Additionally, most fraternities without explicit policies offer paid work opportunities to defray the cost of membership.

"Money should never prevent anyone from being a member of Greek organization," said Julia Keane '04, the Panhellenic Council's vice president of recruitment. "Obviously membership is a privilege and not a right, but it's a privilege we hope we can extend to everyone."

Greek organizations with formal aid policies generally encourage some labor in return for financial aid, Greek leaders said.

In exchange for financial aid at Epsilon Kappa Theta, sisters are encouraged to do 10 hours of house service. Theta president Katie Lieberg '04 said such service generally involves setting up for house events, something most sisters help with already.

"Aid has never been revoked, and the work is very minor -- it's not like you have to scrub the toilets for your financial aid," Lieberg said.

Theta offers as sisters a maximum of $100 in aid per term, Lieberg said, slightly less than half of the sorority's quarterly dues.

Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity president Evan Lapinsky '04 said that his organization "has a flexible financial aid policy in which a brother can do repairs around the house if he cannot afford to pay house dues."

While Psi Upsilon has no official aid policy, Psi U treasurer Kip Benson '04 said brothers can similarly subsidize their dues by working around the fraternity's physical plant. Psi U's national organization also offers "scholarships based on academic merit, fraternity participation and involvement on campus," Benson said.

Fraternity dues reportedly vary substantially between Greek organizations, but Panhell executives estimated the total cost of membership in a sorority to be fairly constant regardless of the house. Sorority leaders acknowledged a great difference, however, in the structure of dues.

"Every house divides its dues up differently," Keane said. "Many houses have fees that you have to pay your first term that you don't have to pay later."

Lieberg said national sororities tend to require substantially higher dues during a sisters' first terms of involvement. "I think it's pretty consistent across three years what a girl will spend in any house, though," Lieberg said.

For sororities, one contentious issue comes in how to address the subject of dues during the rush period. In response to criticism in past years, Panhell officers said sorority dues will be more widely publicized during rush this coming winter.

Quarterly dues rates for sororities have always been available upon request, according to Keane. However, in past years, sororities did not generally advertised their dues structures, and many rushees were reportedly uncomfortable asking about financial issues.

"Recruitment counselors (formerly called Rho Chis) will be provided with more detailed information this year," Keane said. "The exact format has not been determined yet, but we hope to give people who are considering membership a better idea of how one sorority compares across the community."