Compensation changes for CSU Resident Assistants starting next year

By Savannah Lewis

Cleveland State University’s Resident Assistants (RAs) are subject to a change in compensation for the upcoming school year.

According to the revised compensation plan that was given to both returning RAs and those applying for the job, RAs for the next academic year will now be charged $8,670 for their room, which differs from previous years where housing was free. According to the new plan, RAs will continue to receive a free meal plan, due to the fact it can be used as a tool to meet students on campus and build a connection with their residents.

Rooming will also still be free for summer RAs under this plan. RAs will also receive an hourly rate of $13.60 an hour.

The Cauldron reached out to try to speak with Lynn Ellison, director of CSU’s Department of Residence Life, about some of the questions we had regarding the plan, and what they would mean for RAs in the future.

The Cauldron sent an email to Ellison with a first round of questions included with an interview request. Ellison forwarded our email to American Campus Communities, the third-party company Cleveland State University uses to manage on-campus housing. Melinda Farmer, regional vice president of American Campus Communities,  responded to our questions with an official statement.

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The Cauldron’s staff asked several questions that went unanswered.

“As all companies do, we constantly evaluate our compensation packages for staff and make changes based on our evaluation,” Farmer said in her email. “None of our changes would ever result in a decrease in pay for staff (and often result in a pay increase if staff work their scheduled hours) or to create any hardship for the staff. We will not answer any further questions regarding this issue.”

With this answer, The Cauldron decided to do some of the math regarding the payment of RAs and the rent they will have to pay. When added all together, RAs will receive approximately $8,704 yearly, if they complete their full 20 hours each week of the eight months they are required to work. Subtract the $8,670 rent, and that leaves RAs with $34. This number does not include any taxes taken out of their check.

A student who applied for the RA position, but didn’t receive it, spoke with The Cauldron regarding their feelings about the changes. They explained that they felt the RA position would take up most of their free time, and that there wouldn’t be enough time to join extracurricular activities or have a second job to pay for their bills that didn’t include rent.

This student also brought up the point that because it is reportable income, the fact that these charges are not on your account could start to affect your ability to receive financial aid. The student explained that he had similar questions about financial aid, and when he asked Residence Life about them, they sent him to the financial aid office.

“The way FAFSA works is it uses income taxes from two years deep,” the student explained. “If you are applying for this position as a freshman or sophomore, you could see the effects of this on your tuition before you graduate.”

The student also suggested that RAs talk to their tax advisors because depending on their family’s income, it could put them in a different tax bracket. 

These changes will leave returning RAs and those applying with the need to assess whether or not taking the position will be more beneficial to them than harmful. Being an RA is not just a 20 hour a week job. Most RAs are always around to help their residents answer questions, whether face to face or through text messages. Many RAs work on and off the clock to help students feel safe and welcome in the dorms.

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