Though their numbers have yet to dip, officials in the University’s Office of Greek Life are concerned that the economic recession may cause a decrease in recruitment figures next fall.

Though both the Panhellenic Council and the Interfraternity Council saw an increase in recruitment from last year, Mary Beth Seiler, the director of the Office of Greek Life, said the economic downturn could affect students’ decisions to be part of the Greek community, especially given the cost of first-year dues to join a fraternity or sorority.

She added that though recruitment numbers for the National Multicultural Greek Council and the National Panhellenic Association are not yet available, new organizations are still trying to join both councils, indicating that they have yet to be affected by the current economic downturn.

While students can look to need and merit-based scholarships, which are available through the individual fraternities’ and sororities’ national organizations, most of these scholarships are not available to first-year members.

Seiler said it is still too soon to tell whether the economic downturn will affect Panhel’s numbers for this semester and the upcoming academic year. Seiler said she is concerned that the recession will affect rush next fall.

“Right now, there’s no affect on numbers. Nationally, everyone’s concerned. We’ve talked about working with the chapters and how they spend money so they keep the costs as reasonable as possible,” Seiler said.

Despite the country’s economic troubles, Seiler said there are no plans to increase scholarship funds that are currently available through Panhel and Junior Panhel — an organization that prepares students to be a member of Panhel.

“The only way the scholarships from Junior Panhel would increase is if they make extra money from their fundraiser because there’s not extra money sitting somewhere, so they have to raise it,” Seiler said. “The one scholarship that Panhel gives for graduate school is budgeted to be the same, so there are no plans to increase it.”

Seiler said each chapter in the Panhellenic Association has different scholarships available to its members. But these scholarships, which come from the chapters’ national organizations, are in most cases not available to new members, making first-year membership costs expensive.

“They have emergency aid sometimes available as well as scholarships, but they’re not going to offer it to people they don’t know anything about yet,” Seiler said. “You’ll have to have at least made a commitment to the sorority of which you’ve joined and completed you’re new member term, so they know you’re going to be there.”

According to the Panhellenic Association’s website, dues for sororities in Panhel vary on an individual chapter basis, ranging from $900 to $2,300 in annual fees for first-year members.

The Junior Panhellenic Council also provides merit scholarships for first year members of Panhel. Last year, these Junior Panhel scholarship funds, which are garnered through a fundraiser, totaled $9,275.

Panhel also provides a $500 scholarship to a graduating Panhel member going on to graduate school.

Seiler said these scholarships provided by Junior Panhel and Panhel are based solely on merit. There are no explicitly designated need-based scholarships or financial aid available from the Office of Greek Life.

“We have no way of checking aid. We don’t have access to their personal financial (information),” Seiler said. “We’re not a financial aid office so we’re not equipped to collect that information and evaluate it. We don’t ask for how much they need.”

While Seiler said she is disappointed the Office of Greek Life is not able to offer need-based scholarships, she said there is just not money available for them to provide such funds.

“That’s the way it is with lots of things in life,” Seiler said. “I’d love to have every student interested to do it, but there’s not money out there. There has to be costs associated with membership and these are nonprofit organizations.”

Seiler added that living in a sorority house can often be cheaper than paying for room and board in the residence halls. She said the average cost for room and board in a Panhel sorority house is $7,344, which includes 19 meals per week. The average cost for room and board for a double room in a residence hall, including the 150 block meal plan, is $8,590, according to University Housing’s website.

“Room and board in a sorority is generally lower than it is in a residence hall, and it’s an eight-month contract,” Seiler said. “Living in a sorority house is a bargain.”

While Seiler said that students who do not have the financial means are at a disadvantage when it comes to joining in Greek life, IFC President Ari Parritz said the cost of chapter dues is usually not something that hinders students’ ability to join the Greek community. The cost of dues for IFC chapters are not released to the public.

“Any student, from any socioeconomic background, is equally considered during recruitment,” Parritz said in an e-mail interview. “Most individual chapters, as well as their national organizations, offer extremely generous need-based scholarships. As such, cost is most often not a prohibitive measure in a student’s decision to go Greek.”

Most IFC chapters have need-based scholarships available specifically for the chapters’ members at the University, which are funded by their alumni. The IFC does not currently offer scholarships to men in the Greek community, but it does have plans to do so in the future, Parritz said.

“Earlier this year my board discussed if the current state of the economy would affect our winter recruitment numbers,” Parritz said. “Not entirely sure what would happen, we were obviously ecstatic when we saw our numbers soar this winter.”

Some IFC chapters, including Sigma Phi Epsilon, even offer scholarships to students before they arrive on campus, Seiler said.

“A couple of IFC fraternities, in an effort to get interest in Greek life and in their fraternity will offer scholarships to incoming students and there’s no obligation to join,” Seiler said.

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