College Housing has changed an old compensation policy for resident assistants (RAs) that was criticized by some for providing little incentive for some students receiving need-based financial aid to become RAs.
According to University spokesperson Marielle Sainvilus, Housing recently informed all new applicants for RA positions as well as all RAs eligible to return next year of the new compensation policy, which will provide RAs with an unlimited meal plan, 100 Maroon dollars per quarter, and a salary equal to or greater than the first-year room rate, which is currently $9084 per year. RAs will receive this salary as student employees. Meanwhile, RAs will be charged the first-year room rate starting Autumn Quarter 2017, instead of receiving a waiver for the cost of room as under the old policy.
Under the old policy, RAs on financial aid were not financially compensated for their work because of the way RAs were rewarded. All RAs were exempt from the cost of room and board, which amounted to about $15,000 per year. For RAs not on financial aid, they would pay less for their attendance at the University by around $15,000 each year. For RAs on financial aid, however, their aid package would simultaneously decrease by around the same amount that they were exempted from paying because of their work. This is because their waiver for room and board meant a decreased expected cost of attendance, which was taken into account by the financial aid office when grants were given. As a result, unlike their peers not on financial aid, some RAs on financial aid would have to pay around the same amount for their attendance as when they were not working as RAs.
“[The new policy is] to provide more equitable compensation for all students working as RAs regardless of their financial status,” University spokesperson Marielle Sainvilus said.
Third-years Casey Mulroy and Sara Maillacheruvu were informed of the new policy in a meeting with Michelle Rasmussen, Dean of Students, and Sophia Chaknis, Director of College Housing on February 20. Mulroy and Maillacheruvu are members of a student worker solidarity group, Students Organizing United with Labor (SOUL). They told The Maroon that at the same time that they will be compensated through an annual stipend that is equal to or greater than the first-year room rate, RAs on financial aid might still see their aid package affected.
Last year, Mulroy, Maillacheruvu, and third-year Michelle Gan wrote a petition letter that was signed by over a thousand supporters calling for a change in the RA compensation policy. The letter recommended that College Housing switch to a credit-based system, under which RAs would still be billed for room and board costs, keeping their expected cost of attendance the same as when they were not RAs. Instead, RAs would receive a credit similar to a non-need-based scholarship for the same amount on their bill each quarter. Under such a system, RAs on financial aid would be financially compensated by the same amount as their peers who are not on financial aid. This plan was not adopted by College Housing.
“It's hard for me to comment on whether [the new policy] addresses the needs of RAs, since Housing hasn't officially made an announcement or laid out the exact details of how payment and distribution would work, but I think it's a great start,” Gan said in an interview with The Maroon last Friday.
“It’s not perfect because you are not, if you are on financial aid, getting that $15,000 that your peers are getting, but it’s definitely a huge step up from what it used to be. In comparison to a lot schools similar to ours, it’s one of the stronger, more robust programs...we are generally satisfied,” Maillacheruvu said.
According to Sainvilus, all new applicants were informed of the policy change in an in-person meeting. Sainvilus also told The Maroon that any individual inquiries about how the new policy might affect their aid packages can be addressed with the University’s College Aid office.
The new policy was the product of a multi-year review of RA compensation between the College, Campus & Student Life, College Housing, and College Aid, according to Sainvilus.
“[The problem of RA compensation] has been going on for decades...it’s nice that just a year after the petition, they [University administration] were able to come to a solution,” Mulroy said.
According to Maillacheruvu and Mulroy, SOUL will move on to new projects addressing workers on other parts of campus starting next quarter.