Barefoot: Professional honor society dues ridiculous

Abigail Barefoot

Congratulations! Because of your hard work and dedication at Iowa State, we’ve decided to let you join our prestigious society that looks good on those job resumes, meet all those important people, and be a better person, all for $90. And your soul. 

Now, I understand that dues for honor societies are used for providing speakers, scholarships and covering costs for various activities for members to use. But how much is too much? Golden Key costs $75 to get in. Others can cost more, and include everything from T-shirts to a nice lapel pin that will sit forever in my jewelry box. Can I get a lower fee if I say I don’t want it? Nope.

I can understand $20, but almost $100 for students who are already struggling to pay for college and racking up thousands in debt? Why should we pay that much? Some of these organizations have hardly any financial aid options for people struggling to pay dues.

It’s almost like if you can afford to join you get recognized, even though some one else could do the same amount of work and be ignored?

These people already did the work of working two jobs, and getting on the dean’s list and other activities. Why should they pay for the hard work that they already did?

It seems questionable to honor a person based on merit, and recognize those merits only after they’ve signed their membership checks.

Yet you can’t just ignore the letter, thanks to constant nagging from parents and advisers alike. Lord knows memberships to honor societies pay dividends in the dog-eat-dog, post-recession job market.

I’ll concede the opportunites that exist to become further involved both within your field and help the community abroad, activities that help you meet people and learn more about your major. That is, if your honor society actually does things on campus.

I am currently in two honor societies. One, I paid $75 for a certificate and haven’t really heard a word from them, though they say that they are big on community service. The other was $30 and we’re attempting to start community services and academic activities. Point being, more money for membership dues doesn’t necessarily translate to club merit or activity.

I’m not saying all honor societies suck, or that paying dues should be illegal. Some honor societies rock, some don’t, and I am not in a position to judge the majority. I just think that for that kind money, you should be getting bang for your buck.

So where does all of this money go?

To help pay for operations, Phi Beta Kappa, one of the most prestigious honor societies, has raised membership fees twice in the past four years. Their annual budget is $4.7 million, with about half coming from alumni donations from merchandise royalties. So why have the huge fees for student members?

Golden Key spent $289,461 on scholarships, less than 5 percent of their total expenditures in 1997. So where is the rest of the money going to?

I have yet to find a complete breakdown of where some of these bigger, more expensive organizations are putting the money, just vague references to scholarships and speakers. So other than a line on your resume, what do you really get out of it?

It makes you wonder: Are you paying someone to provide you with a kick-ass resume entry?

In a way, it’s like your kindergarten teacher charging you $25 for the gold star she puts on your drawings. It’s a nice gesture, sure, and makes you feel better, yeah, but is it worth the price?