Money a secondary concern when applying to be an RA

Rose Woodbury

Illustration: Alex Bailey

Resident Assistants get free room and board, but most students don’t seem to be applying for the position primarily for the financial benefits. This year, 75 students applied to be RAs, a higher number than the usual 60-65 applicants. Yet despite the correlation between the high number of RA applicants this year and increased tuition costs at Whitman, students don’t seem to be applying for the money.

Douglas Hall RA and junior Nathan Wong explained that the monetary compensation is not worth the challenging workload RAs take on, which includes a minimum of 20 hours of work per week.

Wong said that he decided to become an RA because he wanted a challenge.

“I applied because I had a great freshman RA, and I wanted to be better connected with the Whitman community. I didn’t have any big commitments like sports or clubs, so I wanted a challenge and a chance to meet and help students,” he said.

Director of Financial Aid Services Marilyn Ponti said that being an RA can significantly reduce costs of attending the college for some students.

“For a student who gets a scholarship, we would look at the same budget for them and allow them to keep their scholarship up to the budget minus room and board. [Being an RA] usually benefits the student because they don’t have to work another job,” she said.

Ponti noted that there might be a causal relationship between the high number of RA applicants and the high cost of tuition.

“It’s possible that as the budget gets higher and as students look to reduce their loan and employment, being an RA is a good way to do that,” she said.

Yet ultimately, Ponti agreed with Wong.

“I think you have to become an RA because it’s something you really love and want to be a part of, and if there’s a financial benefit, that’s great,” she said.

As for an explanation of why so many students applied this year, Associate Dean of Students and Director of Campus Life Nancy Tavelli explained that the sophomore class, which is where most of the applicants come from, is the largest it’s ever been in Whitman history. Travelli also reported that the number of students applying to be RAs this year is not the highest on record; the record number of students applying to become an RA was 90 applicants in the late 1980s.

Sophomore Katie Tertocha considered the financial component when she applied to be an RA, but she ultimately applied for other reasons.

“I think I maybe want to be a counselor in the future, and I’ve just had really good experiences with past RAs,” she said.

Tertocha preferenced Anderson and Jewett because she had a great experience with her RAs during her first year and wanted to give back.

“My RAs freshman year were super helpful. They definitely made my freshman year better than it could have been,” she said. “Getting room and board paid for is just an additional perk.”