We read with interest the Chronicle of Higher Education’s interview with William E. Even about the recent study he and Austin Smith published about the academic performance of sorority and fraternity members.
While we—and the sorority and fraternity community at large—welcome careful research that can inform how we support our members, this study shows a limited representation at one university. Looking at various data markers across institutions nationwide paints a more complete picture of the positive impact sororities and fraternities have on student academic success.
Research findings have consistently supported that membership has a dramatic, positive impact on retention and persistence to graduation. For example, research found first-to-second year retention rates among sorority members hit 93%, compared to 82% for non-members. Similar studiesshow fraternity members are 20% more likely to graduate, which is critical as men are attending college and graduating with less frequency than in the past.
Why? A host of studies show membership contributes to a students’ sense of community and belonging on campus, which provides a greater sense of attachment to a university. Further research shows the stress of first-year students stems from loneliness, and sororities and fraternities provide connection, friendship and a strong support system.
Membership also develops the whole student. Sorority women experience gains in science, writing and thinking skills; better emotional support; increased college engagement; and higher levels of service. Fraternity men experience higher levels of development in critical thinking, self-awareness, communication, diversity, citizenship, leadership, and relationships, and those who join in their first semester show greater gains.
From day one in a member’s experience, organizations provide academic success programming and mentoring relationships that focus on student learning. Further, fraternal foundations provide more than $79 million in scholarship funds and educational programming funding annually, playing a significant role in ensuring college access and advancing personal development. And yes, both NIC and NPC have a long and robust history of nationwide data showcasing that members’ grades out-perform campus averages.
We applaud Even and Smith for putting the spotlight on academic performance in sorority and fraternity life, but urge readers to consider a broader picture of measures of student success.
Executive Director of the National Panhellenic Conference
President & CEO of the North American Interfraternity Conference