Hard Knock Res Life
Published: Friday, February 22, 2013
Updated: Friday, February 22, 2013 14:02
Taking a position as a resident assistant, like any job, is inevitably a cost-benefit decision. While being chosen to support and enrich undergraduates’ housing experience is an honor and privilege, it comes with its own set of sacrifices — whether it’s having to write up a friend or being on duty on a Saturday night.
One cost that should not be included in this decision, however, is the job’s effect on one’s financial aid package.
Georgetown’s current financial aid determination system considers the compensation received from an RA position — which includes free housing and partial board and meal stipends — as an outside scholarship.
This policy is problematic on two counts. First, it treats the monetary value of the benefits of the RA position as “free money.” This assessment not only is inaccurate, as RAs work to earn the money covered by those benefits, but also causes this value to subtract directly from a student’s calculated demonstrated need, resulting in a reduced financial aid package. Further, students who are unable qualify for a work-study job but decide to become an RA may see their packages reduced in such a way that they no longer qualify for work-study. The second problem with the policy is that it inherently limits the socioeconomic diversity of the RA staff by imposing constraints on financial aid students.
While financial aid is administered on a federal level, changing this policy would only require Georgetown to bill the RA position as a full-time job, freeing it from the restrictions of outside scholarships. The university should act to make this administrative change. Rather than restricting individuals who would make good RAs but cannot risk seeing their package reduced from accepting the position, it would open up the option for these students and lead to an expanded, better pool of applicants and RAs.
Being an RA already comes with its own set of unique challenges. There is no need to add the burden of higher cost of attendance to the list.