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IndiraMehta

FORMER Greek/Frat/Sorority Counselor - Ask me anything about your greek debts!

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I QUIT my job today as a Greek Life administrator-of-some-sort at a educational-institution-not-unlike-a-college.

 

Are you in a sorority or fraternity? Do you have any questions about what happened to your credit after you joined the organization? I CAN ANSWER MOST OF YOUR QUESTIONS.

 

A big part of why I quit today was upon hearing that one of my students committed suicide due to, well, a lot of things. But the financial strain was a HUGE HUGE HUGE HUGE HUGE part of it. It's not right, and I can't in good conscience be any part of that any longer.

 

Here's the shady **** these organizations have begun to do to PROSPECTIVE new entrants to the sorority/fraternity system:

 

  • Requiring all participants of Rush Week (BOTH frats and sororities AND nontraditional greek organizations) pull a copy of their credit report
  • Making their credit history part of the application process (keep in mind these are 17-23 year old almost-children! Most have never held anything bigger than a part time job)
  • REQUIRING SECRECY IN ALL FINANCIAL MATTERS This keeps these young people from discussing these issues, and finding solutions to their problems.
  • When secrecy has been "compromised" the members are KICKED OUT. Let me explain -- a student pulls their credit report, sees strange credit checks, and sends in for debt validation or verification which... ends up going to their sorority or fraternity house, thus tipping off the house leadership that they're "breaking secrecy" or "breaking ritual" and are KICKED OUT of what is supposed to be a supportive social, philanthropic organization.
  • Requiring PARENTS to co-sign their children's membership dues. (REALLY extremely questionable.)
  • REQUIRING new members to "finance" their membership by taking out credit cards and/or loans issued by the sorority

UGH. I've HAD IT!

 

I went through the greek system myself. It wasn't as peachy as I think it could have been, but this added financial dimension is really extremely harmful for these STUDENTS who are already bleeding out of their eyeballs just to pay tuition, let alone for greek bullshit. Beyond all this, it's A PRESSURE COOKER  for the student. Like, these organizations have begun to systemically remove whatever little financial support system these students have, and accuse these students of "breaking code" or "breaking sister/brotherhood" when they ask some pretty freaking basic questions about the organization of which they are a part.

 

Today, I formally resigned from my job, mailed in my pin and badge and left the reservation. F***** THIS!!! No student should have to suffer in this way at the hands of organizations that purport to make them better people. So disgusted.... so ask me your questions!!

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Neither I nor any of my kids have been part of the Greek system. But if what you are posting is true, it may help a lot more people if you offer to talk to a someone who writes a whistleblower column in your local newspaper.

 

Helping people who are already caught in a treacherous system is good. Warning others (and their parents) in order to avoid that system is even better.

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While I don't believe in ANY group that is exclusionary rather than inclusion based, I have to disagree with a couple of points that you make.

 

1)  the percentage of students who are on a razor thin budget is not near as bad as the high percentage that is financing a "lifestyle" on student loans for a degree which will not afford them a job that will ultimately repay the money with minimum pain, which is far worse.  This isn't a "greek" problem as much as an entitlement problem which was established way before the idea of a frat or sorority EVER enters their minds.  The greek issue isn't the problem nearly as much as the sheer numbers that are creating their own debt problems without being a frat member.  

 

I am enrolled in college now as a mid-life adult and the only students on my large campus interested in the greek life are those whose parents participated and made a big deal of it.  There is a small number that get it in their heads that it is the ticket to glory but by and large that lifestyle is fading in popularity on campuses and is not what it was decades ago.

 

2)  having parents co-sign their fees.  Parents are already co-signing a LOT for college and the frat/sororities are smart to get Mom and Dad on the hook for the costs should the student be irresponsible.  Living in a frat house is no different that a residence hall or apartment. There are expenses that must be paid.  Room/rent, board/food, and utilities.  Students AND parents should evaluate the costs of each option before committing.

 

3)  Last the secrecy about the credit issues is just ridiculous.  Parents should be teaching their kids about debt, management, and how to avoid the pitfalls instead of expecting them to just figure it out.  If the student is not creating debt they cannot pay then problems are far less likely to happen.  

 

Last:  anyone who is foolish enough to cede that much control over their life to an entity like that so much so that they control their mail really need therapy because really those "societies" are little more than cults.

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While I don't believe in ANY group that is exclusionary rather than inclusion based, I have to disagree with a couple of points that you make.

 

1)  the percentage of students who are on a razor thin budget is not near as bad as the high percentage that is financing a "lifestyle" on student loans for a degree which will not afford them a job that will ultimately repay the money with minimum pain, which is far worse.  This isn't a "greek" problem as much as an entitlement problem which was established way before the idea of a frat or sorority EVER enters their minds.  The greek issue isn't the problem nearly as much as the sheer numbers that are creating their own debt problems without being a frat member.  

 

I'm not so sure. Greek Lettered Organizations specifically and aggressively recruit students who are from out-of-state and are highly unlikely to have close social connections. Even in-state students are far from home and in a vulnerable spot.

Specifically, Greek Lettered Organizations have teamed up in the last 5 years with reincarnations of debt-collection companies. As such the financial screws are on, full time. As a result of these organizations using these services, their costs have gone up exponentially, and these firms have undue influence over the decisionmakers within the Greek Organizations. They're plied with free trips to Cancun, if the chapter president agrees to sign up their Greek Organization with their service. Instead of a monthly-dues requirement, students are being asked to take out loans for the full 4-year cost of being in the organization, even if they're kicked out of school or the greek organization.

 

Its a very very unfair situation to be in for the student, who has no negotiation power.

 

Also, many Greek Organizations at many schools pervade the leadership structure of the school, and it is often difficult at many institutions for non-greek students interested in leadership to gain access to those opportunities.

 

I am enrolled in college now as a mid-life adult and the only students on my large campus interested in the greek life are those whose parents participated and made a big deal of it.  There is a small number that get it in their heads that it is the ticket to glory but by and large that lifestyle is fading in popularity on campuses and is not what it was decades ago.

This is true. I hope the trend continues. But "not as popular as in the past" doesn't change the fact that there are still millions of students engaging in the system.

 

2)  having parents co-sign their fees.  Parents are already co-signing a LOT for college and the frat/sororities are smart to get Mom and Dad on the hook for the costs should the student be irresponsible.  Living in a frat house is no different that a residence hall or apartment. There are expenses that must be paid.  Room/rent, board/food, and utilities.  Students AND parents should evaluate the costs of each option before committing.

True. Parents, I think, are a big part of this problem, and should seek therapy for thinking that buying their kids a fancy social membership somehow makes them a better parent.

 

3)  Last the secrecy about the credit issues is just ridiculous.  Parents should be teaching their kids about debt, management, and how to avoid the pitfalls instead of expecting them to just figure it out.  If the student is not creating debt they cannot pay then problems are far less likely to happen.

This, actually, the core of my disgust. This particular organization, and its chapters, was engaging in a practice of kicking out members who "broke brother/sisterhood" by inquiring about the tradeline on the credit report. This practice needs to stop.

 

Last:  anyone who is foolish enough to cede that much control over their life to an entity like that so much so that they control their mail really need therapy because really those "societies" are little more than cults.

And yes, these organizations are straight-up cults (I want to say sometimes, but seriously? It's like 75% are .... CULT-lite.

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You make good points, except for the claim that the students have no negotiating power. They have the biggest one of all, if they choose to use it: they can say "NO."

 

They can say "No, thank you, I don't want to be a part of this." And there are, clearly, students who have done that, so long as there has been a Greek system. 

 

It requires strength of purpose and a belief that if life and systems are not just, that each of us has an obligation to work to make them that way.

 

But they DO have that power. If we don't teach them that simple truth, then we are doing them the biggest injustice of all.

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I brought up my concerns to the institution I recently left, and specifically asked if the institution would ask greek organizations to participate in the same financial disclosures the Financial Aid office is subject to, for example:
 

  • Disclosing ALL Rush Week fees to students at the commencement of Rush Week (some houses don't disclose RushWeek-related fees until initiation)
  • Disclose ALL financial obligations/penalties during Rush Week.
  • Step-up on-campus anti-bullying efforts and include penalties against each house, so that students who choose not to continue with greek recruitment are not subject to continued bullying just for changing their minds.
  • Disclose ALL outstanding fees to all departing members at the time of departure.
  • Stop charging students usurious fees to 'depart' or leave their organization.
  • Disclose all interest or penalty fees and rates to students.
  • Disclose that houses will be pulling student's credit reports (if required)

So far, no word back from that office.

 

The suggestions above are reasonable, and have been used in other arenas of student/collegiate finance. I don't see how this is any different, or difficult to comply with. If anything, it makes each member of the house even that much more responsible to have ALL of this knowledge up front. Whether students choose to use it or not is a different story, but that it's not provided up front, OR that houses react with hostility when asked for this info is a shame.

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