Activists Demand Meeting on RA Financial Aid

SOUL says it is prepared to protest if the aid office does not give them a meeting.

By Madeleine Johnson

A group of activists campaigning for increased financial benefits for Resident Assistants (RAs) is prepared to protest if the University’s Office of College Aid does not give them a meeting. 

Students Organizing United with Labor (SOUL) and last year’s campaigners for a change in RA payment methods met on Tuesday to discuss their plans for the year. 

The meeting focused largely on introducing last year’s call for a more equitable payment for RAs on financial aid, which SOUL has taken up, and establishing the group’s goals for the year. After last year’s petition to the financial aid office which asked for a change in the way RAs on financial assistance are paid garnered over 1,000 signatures, SOUL hoped to build on the broad campus attention the issue had received and pressure financial aid officials into a meeting. 

Under the current system, the elimination of room and board costs for RAs is factored into the financial aid office’s calculation of the cost of attendance. This means that need-based financial awards are reduced by the cost of room and board, meaning that some students would receive no additional compensation for their work as RAs. 

In some cases, the petition creators reported that a few students were told that they would pay more tuition if they decided to become RAs. Many students who wish to become RAs are unaware that their financial aid situation will change, and upon finding out, are forced to either effectively work for free or withdraw from the RA process altogether, according to proponents of changing the system. 

“It was so unclear,” third-year Casey Mulroy said, one of the three main organizers on the campaign. “I didn’t know if I would be paying more, paying the same, maybe something would work out and I would be paying less.” She hoped to become an RA last year, and was accepted for a position, but said she had to turn it down because taking on the position would have reduced her aid. 

The organizers hope to meet with the financial aid office to work on changing the RA payment program in a way that remains financially feasible for the University. They hope that the office potentially implements a system that would treat compensation for room and board like an outside scholarship, leaving financial aid packages unreduced. If the organizers cannot secure a meeting, they are prepared to organize broader community action. 

The University News Office told The Maroon last year that the current treatment of financial aid is both long-standing and required by federal guidelines for financial aid, and that the University was therefore unable to make the changes that were called for in the petition.