For students who become resident assistants, the free room and partial board and meal stipends are attractive perks. Yet these perks can come with a price tag, as RA benefits are deducted from the aid package given to those on financial aid.

Michelle Haines (SFS ’14) recently proposed a change to the university’s RA compensation policy on the Internet forum IdeaScale, which prompted a discussion between the student body and the Office of Financial Aid.

According to the Office of Student Financial Services, the value of these benefits is classified as an outside scholarship when determining an RAs’ financial aid packages. But for some, like RA Michael Raleigh (NHS ’15), the OSFS decision to cut his financial aid was problematic.

“My work-study award, which was $3,600, was taken away as a result of the RA position,” Michael Raleigh (NHS ’15) said. “This was the biggest shock to me. I had to search for a new job as my previous one with the Center for Social Justice only paid work-study students.”

Raleigh, who also holds a scholarship allowing him to pay 25 percent of full tuition, said he was forced to appeal his financial aid but still receives only a portion of the originally promised benefits.

In her IdeaScale post, Haines references Washington University in St. Louis, which changed its RA compensation policy in fall 2011. The university’s RAs are now designated as full employees, eliminating the position’s effect on their aid packages. Haines suggests that Georgetown follow suit.

Director of Residence Life Stephanie Lynch disagreed with Haines, stressing that the RA compensation package already provides sizable compensation, adding that the package adjusts accordingly for increases in housing costs.

“For the overwhelming majority of students, becoming an RA is a financial benefit,” Lynch said.

Director of Media Relations Rachel Pugh declined to comment on behalf of the Student Employment Office.

For some students, benefits are not the sole motivating force for accepting an RA position.

“The benefits offered with the position were a huge incentive to apply,” first-year RA Tucker Cholvin(SFS ’15) said. “[But] part of what motivated me to take the job was that I knew that I would make a pretty good RA and that it was work for which I felt I was well cut out.”

Raleighagreed, citing the importance of the RA experience.

“We are here to foster community and satisfy the needs of our residents, not to simply get free room and board,” Raleigh said.

But Haines, who declined to comment for this article, wrote in her post that due to RA compensation’s effect on financial aid, the Office of Residence Life fails to attract students of different socioeconomic levels.

Cholvin agreed, emphasizing that a change in compensation policy would attract a more diverse group of applicants.

“I think that this change is something that would advance [Residence Life]’s agenda and help them to live out their ideals,” Cholvin said. “We talk a lot about socioeconomic equality on campus, and this sort of policy is flatly to the contrary.”

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