It's sorority rush season, and a viral rash of TikToks from University of Alabama students has people talking about how much Greek life costs today — and where all the money goes.
The internet became obsessed last week with Bama RushTok, a trend where potential new members, or PNMs, showed off their outfits of the day, or OOTDs, on seemingly everyone's for you pages, or FYPs. You didn't have to scroll far to find a group of well-dressed women listing off brands quickly (and eventually, hoarsely) as they twirled for the camera in cluttered dorm rooms. (Alabama has one of the biggest and most active Greek communities in the nation, with over 10,000 students participating.)
Though rush in Tuscaloosa wrapped up Sunday with Bid Day — some 2,300 students were ultimately selected by 17 sororities, according to AL.com — the effects of Bama RushTok are sure to stick around. Bama RushTok not only exposed a Southern school's subculture to TikTok's 850 million mainstream users but also inspired a ton of curiosity about the money behind it all.
How much does it cost to be in a sorority?
Well, that answer varies by college and house. At the University of Alabama, the average new member fees run between $4,170 and $4,978 per semester. Members who live in the sorority house typically pay between $7,465 and $9,445.
But Greek life isn't that pricey everywhere. At the University of Georgia, new member dues hover around $1,800 for the fall semester, while people who live in the house can expect to spend about $4,300.
"All sororities are willing to work with their members on an individual basis to create payment plans if necessary," Georgia's Greek Life website says.
Next question: Where's that money going? According to The Sorority Life, a website associated with the National Panhellenic Conference, it's generally used to pay dues to the parent organizations, host social events, cover insurance, provide educational resources and finance house upkeep.
The money adds up fast, as Alabama alumna Christy Sasso pointed out in a TikTok that's been viewed 1 million times.
"I haven't seen anyone talk about who manages this money. Because if you do some quick math, the dues for the year when I was there were just under $6,000. There's over 400 girls in the sorority, like 420 — that's $2.5 million. A year," she says.
Who manages a sorority or fraternity's money?
Sasso's got an answer for that, too.
"You would assume some adult handles all this. But that's where you're wrong. When I was 19 years old, I was given access to several bank accounts with millions of dollars in them," she says, laughing. "I'm 19 years old with, like, $200 in my bank account, and I am paying the utility bills, hiring caterers, collecting W-9s for our vendors."
She goes on to say there was alumni supervision and a checks-and-balances system that required multiple people to sign off on expenditures, but she still had a lot of financial freedom. ("We would throw an $80,000 party on a Tuesday," Sasso adds.)
Her experience isn't unique.
Sororities often have treasurers, or vice presidents of finance, on their executive boards. OmegaFi — a firm that helps sorority and fraternity chapters, "house corporations, HQs and foundations increase revenue, reduce fraud, save time and manage their operations" — says their duties include creating budgets, present financial reports, reimbursing members, sharing personal finance knowledge, meeting long-term funding goals and maintaining paper trails. The role is so serious that VPs of finance often list their stints managing sorority or fraternity money as jobs on LinkedIn.
And, yes, these responsibilities and charges are all in addition to the traditional time and costs associated with going to college. Tuition and fees average out to $9,410 yearly for in-state students at four-year public colleges.
Greek life has come under fire in recent years for enabling hazing, campus sexual assault, racism and elitism. But from a purely financial perspective, participation can have real-world perks. A 2014 Gallup survey found fraternity and sorority alumni were more engaged in the workplace than non-members. They also were more likely to say they were financially thriving in their careers.
So in addition to having deep pockets, the women on Bama RushTok may also have the right idea.