A new study by two Miami University economics professors, William E. Even and Austin C. Smith, found that participating in Greek life might not be as much of help to students’ academic performance as the Cliff Alexander Office of Sorority and Fraternity says it is.
The study, “Greek Life, Academics and Grades,” conducted by Even and Smith, was released on Sept. 28, 2018.
Both Even and Smith didn’t respond to comment.
“Greek Life, Academics, and Grades” found that, in general, students in Greek life graduated with an overall lower GPA than the GPA they earned during the fall semester of their first year.
This negative correlation between Greek affiliation and resulting GPA was especially prominent in students who barely reached the minimum 2.5 GPA required for recruitment eligibility.
Smith and Even wrote that, “Pledging a sorority leads to decrease in academic performance” by .13 grade points below their starting GPA, while,“pledging a fraternity reduces performance” by .20 grade points below their starting GPA
Their findings contradict the 2017-2018 Cliff Alexander Office factbook, which originally cited average GPA for Miami students in sororities and fraternities was 3.25.
The average cited in the factbook is .1 to .2 points higher than the average GPA for non-Greek student, according by The Atlantic.
Even and Smith used data from Miami spanning from 2007 to 2017, and including statistics from nearly 34,000 students.
Miami, which requires that students not go through the Greek recruitment process until the second semester of their first year, gave the professors the chance to compare students’ first-semester academic performance to their GPA in every subsequent semester’s GPA.
Smith and Even write that the decline in GPA is due to the time commitment students make during the recruitment process, new member education period and the active member phase.
Sophomore Sam Novak, who went through fraternity recruitment last spring, believes that while the commitment to recruitment took away some time for homework, it didn’t affect his overall academic performance.
“The time commitment during recruitment wasn’t too bad,” Novak said. “After we were initiated, the events became more optional.”
Recruitment for Greek organizations is also associated with excessive drinking and sometimes hazing, which contributes to a lower academic performance, according to the study. During the hazing period, Even and Smith write, “pledges of both genders are more likely to withdraw from courses” that are too challenging or have a heavy workload.
The study found that the negative “effect of being an active member is substantially smaller” than the effects experienced by potential new Greek members during the pledging process.
Both women and men experience a reduction of .8 or .9 grade points from their first-year fall GPA after completing recruitment and being initiated into their sorority or fraternity.
Alyssa Kuelthau, junior and academic chairwoman for Gamma Phi Beta Sorority, said that while each sorority has their own threshold, the bar for academic excellence in potential members is high.
Gamma Phi Beta Sorority requires a minimum 2.7 GPA, as opposed to the university’s minimum of 2.5. The women in Kuelthau’s sorority are encouraged to better their GPAs from the previous semester, she said.
Even and Smith also studied Greek alumni’s starting salary.
“Greek Life, Academics, and Earnings” reports that Greek students tend to have higher-earning, better-educated parents.
In interview with Teen Vogue, Smith said Greek students “are probably more likely to have a higher salary early in their careers than those with lower socioeconomic status.”
But while Greek affiliation can be correlated to higher earnings later in life, Even and Smith note in their study that “this is not a causal effect” — one does not inherently cause the other.
In “Greek Life, Academics, and Earnings,” Even and Smith write that Greek alumni salaries are “roughly 15 percent higher” than non-Greeks, but this increase can be attributed to “having a family background that enhances earnings potential.”
No evidence to Greek affiliation directly affecting its alumni’s starting salaries was shown.