In recent weeks the ‘Abolish Greek Life’ movement has been gaining traction, with protests at campuses across the country petitioning Universities to do away with these 200 year old institutions.
The naysayers argue that students are not interested in joining Greek Life Organisations (GLOs). There certainly was a decline in 2020-21 for obvious reasons (socially distanced Greek life just isn’t the same). However a study immediately prior to the pandemic found that 44% of College students (8.8 million) are interested in joining a GLO, compared to only 1.4 million current members.
‘Abolishiners’ argue that Greek Life is exclusive to students who are straight, White and Christian, but this doesn’t stack up with the facts. Did you know that the most recently established fraternity in the US is a Muslim fraternity, founded at UCSD less than a decade ago? There are now 43 LGBTIQ GLOs, and 17 for non-binary students. There are 12 which are African American, 18 for Asian Americans, 28 for Hispanic Americans, and 18 which are explicitly multicultural. With 234 sororities and fraternities spread across US campuses, the majority are no longer White-Christian.
The Abolish moment also argues that Greek Life is exclusive on financial grounds. Dues need to be paid upfront and can set students back anywhere between $1,500 to in excess of $10,000 per year. Nowadays, college-debt is a problem for even the upper-middle class, and FAFSA loans cannot finance dues in both policy and practice. In many ways, while there is a debate to be had on the extent to which Greek Life is exclusive on socio racial grounds, its exclusivity on socioeconomic grounds is pretty much absolute. However, there are solutions to this problem.
Crowded.me is an early stage fintech company seeking to make Greek Life accessible to students of all socioeconomic backgrounds. Crowded’s CEO Daniel Grunstein suggested in an interview that “if a student relies on financing for tuition and housing, it is virtually impossible for her/him to come up with the $2,000-$10,000 per year in dues”. “Unfortunately this is not unique to Greek Life, it exists with all co-curricular membership be it booster clubs, scouts, and even summer camps” he explains. The consequence of pricing out the lower-middle class is substantial given the “significant networking and leadership benefits associated with membership” according to Grunstein.
When asked if he was concerned that Crowded may become a target of the Abolish Greek Life movement, Grunstein was not concerned. “Obviously there are points of disagreement, but the protestors have a point about economic exclusion. If one can purchase groceries in monthly installments why not dues? This need is not unmet intentionally, volunteer-run nonprofits don’t exactly specialize in innovative financing. The needs of the lower-middle class are often those which ‘fall between the cracks’.”
Crowded is currently exploring bank partnerships and plans to offer dues financing from Fall 2022.