Fraternity membership surged to 327,260 in 2011 from 253,148 in 2005. National fraternities and affiliated foundations generated $185 million in student dues and other revenue in 2010-2011, up 24 percent from 2005-2006, tax records show.
White male fraternity members drink more heavily than any other group on campus, and published research suggests that the youngest students are most likely to engage in binge drinking, according to Aaron White, program director for college and underage drinking prevention research at the National Institute on
"The first couple of months of school are a particularly vulnerable time for students with regard to heavy drinking," White said. "Delaying rush makes a lot of sense."
Founded in 1909, the Interfraternity Conference joined the industry's political arm, known as FratPAC, in fighting against a federal anti-hazing bill last year.
The group has stepped up advocacy on campuses, especially against recruiting restrictions. With its encouragement, fraternity leaders at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland rejected a 2011 plan to defer recruiting freshmen. At the University of Colorado at Boulder, the conference backed fraternities' decision to operate without university recognition, reducing their access to campus facilities, rather than accept deferred recruitment and live-in advisers.
"The NIC was not supportive" of university rules, said Deb Coffin, Colorado vice chancellor for student affairs.
The University of Central Florida this year lifted a recruitment moratorium, which had been prompted by excessive drinking at fraternities and sororities, after the Interfraternity Conference threatened to sue the school for violating students' freedom-of-association rights. The national group's threat didn't influence the university, said Maribeth Ehasz, a Central Florida vice president.