With over 30 chapters of honor societies on the University of Mississippi campus, students have a wide range of options for membership. However, the majority of these societies require payment for membership, which can hinder students’ financial abilities to join.
With many of the societies at the university extending their invitations to new members in the spring, students are beginning to make the decisions about which to buy into.
“There are so many (honor societies) offered here, and I want to be in all of them, but at the same time, I don’t have the funds to be in all the ones I want to,” Kaitlin Haines, a junior accounting major, said. “You kind of have to pick and choose and decide which one is really beneficial.”
Haines said the direct benefits of certain societies are difficult to quantify, and when she pays the money to join one, she wants to make sure it actively advances her academic career.
Honor societies on campus range in price from a single $25 payment, like Alpha Delta Lambda, up to $200 annually, like Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia. Still, many of the societies do not list their required dues in their respective constitutions and bylaws or on their websites.
Ally Adcock, a sophomore exercise science major, is a standing member of Sigma Alpha Lambda — an honor society dedicated to leadership and service. She said the financial requirements have deferred her from joining more organizations that could potentially be beneficial to her.
“I don’t agree that academic organizations on campus should require payment. They reach out to students and promote themselves, but then make students pay to get in,” Adcock said.
Sigma Alpha Lambda is one of the less-expensive options, with a one-time $75 membership fee, but Adcock said she sees how this could be exclusionary to students with little expendable funds.
Some societies like Phi Kappa Phi require students to pay by the year. Phi Kappa Phi requires an annual membership renewal fee. Members can choose to make payments of $35 every year, $60 for a two-year membership or $90 for a three-year membership in the program.
Tony Ammeter, the current chapter president of Phi Kappa Phi, said the cost of membership goes directly toward the cost of administration, the website and scholarship funds distributed at a national level. Additional funding goes toward covering local chapter events like spring and fall initiation ceremonies. The university chapter also gives discounts to students who can prove financial need.
Others, like Sigma Tau Delta, only expect a single payment at the time of application.
Sigma Tau Delta, an honor society for English majors, requires a $60 membership fee at the time of applying.
Caroline Wigginton, associate professor of English and president of the university’s chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, said that to her knowledge, no student has ever deferred application to Sigma Tau Delta because of financial constraints.
Like other societies, though, Sigma Tau Delta provides scholarship opportunities to supplement students’ abilities to pay.
“Generally, our membership is small — about 10 per graduation year. We consider Sigma Tau Delta to be the honor society arm of our undergrad English student group, Cover-to-Cover, which is open to all undergrads who enjoy literature and English. Cover-to-Cover engages in social and service activities,” Wigginton said.
She said that joining the group and paying the $60 was worth it because of the community for writers it establishes and the opportunities it provides to serve that community and foster literacy.
In fall 2018, Nick Weaver, who was a member of the 2018-2019 Associated Student Body Senate, helped establish the ASB Honor Society Task Force to address the question of which societies are worth the cost.
While the task force did not specifically research the ability of students to pay the dues of an honor society, Weaver said he has recognized the prices that students have to pay to join an honor society can cause problems.
“I do believe their high costs can be a hindrance for low-income students at the university,” he said. “I personally don’t believe that every honor society on campus is worth the price of admission.”