Resident advisors are an essential element of the on-campus living experience. They provide support and are among the first people met by new students during the move-in process.
Many different motivations might lead a student to decide to work as a resident advisor during their time at Cornell. Adelyn Yu ’25, a resident advisor in Clara Dickson Hall, said that a positive experience with her own resident advisor inspired her to take on the job.
“My RA, when I came here the first year at Cornell, really affected me positively. I was in a very difficult situation… and I have to say that my RA really helped me to go through that difficult time, so, then, I was thinking about how I could also become the kind of person who has a positive influence onto people,” says Yu.
Carina Garcia ’23, a resident advisor in Barbara McClintock Hall, sought the leadership opportunity.
“I chose to become an RA to build my skills as a student leader,” said Carina Garcia ’23, a resident advisor in Barbara McClintock Hall.
Amy Qiao ’25, a resident advisor in Mews Hall, decided on the job due to her desires for both a sense of responsibility and fun.
“I knew it would be an important life learning lesson to learn how to take care of 30 residents — this holds true! I’ve learned a lot from my residents and about myself in this job,” said Qiao.
For Nicholas Weising ’24, a resident advisor in Holland International Living Center, the free housing was a key factor in deciding to apply for the position.
While free housing is a well-known benefit of being a resident advisor, the position has many additional benefits. According to Garcia, this year’s contract stated that resident advisors are entitled to a stipend of $3,050 to $3,600 per semester as well as a microfridge. This stipend is considerably larger than previous compensation for resident advisors.
However, many resident advisors are disappointed with this compensation.
“The pay is not commensurate at all,” Weising said. “They got rid of all of the perks, and, in lieu of that, they increased our stipend a lot. This year, I’m making $3,700 a semester, and that’s cool and all, but if you actually do the arithmetic…we ended up losing several hundred dollars.”
According to Garcia, resident advisors previously had perks including a meal plan, a laundry stipend, and a bus pass. In its new policy, Cornell University has taken away these perks and replaced them with a larger stipend — the old stipend for resident advisors was only around $500, according to Weising.
“The current compensation may not be equitable for all undergraduate RAs, especially in regards to access to affordable food options,” Garcia said.”Without the meal plan, as I mentioned before, this can pose a financial strain on some low-income student RAs.”
Some resident advisors, on the other hand, are satisfied with the compensation.
“I’m fine with the pay, but I think the previous package was better than what we currently have. ” said Yesimi Mustapha ’25, a resident advisor in Court-Kay-Bauer Hall.
Despite the drawbacks, for many resident advisors the experience is extremely meaningful and fosters friendships.
“A great part of being an RA is seeing your residents grow and adapt to college life while developing your own leadership skills. The role also allows you to form new connections on campus,” Garcia said.