Cut College Costs: Be a Resident Assistant

Want to lower the cost of college?

How does eliminating all your child’s room and board costs sound? It’s possible if your child becomes a resident assistant.

A resident assistant serves as a surrogate mother hen to the kids in the dorms. RAs help settle disputes and make sure kids aren’t doing dumb things like hauling beer kegs into their dorm room.

If your child becomes an RA, the pay is going to be a lot better than washing dishes in the cafeteria or shelving books in the library. That’s because a resident assistant typically gets free room and board.

The prospects of slashing college costs is what prompted me to urge my daughter Caitlin to apply for an RA job. She was an RA last year and she would have signed up again, but she’s studying at the University of Barcelona for both semesters of her junior year.

The job didn’t seem all that time consuming for Caitlin. She was on duty about half the weekends, which is when the RAs have to patrol the halls and the grounds looking for drunks and other troublemakers.  If you ever wondered why colleges don’t allow freshmen prospects to spend Friday or Saturday nights on their campuses it’s because of the heavy drinking and other weekend shenanigans.

Not everybody who wants to be an RA gets the job. In fact, in this economy a growing number of students are applying to be a resident assistant. Students who apply for these coveted jobs must survive interviews and group projects to see how they handle tricky situations. Caitlin so impressed the residence life directors at her college that they assigned her to the notorious party dorm, which is filled to the rafters with upper classmen. I am happy to report that she survived the experience.

If your child is interested in becoming an RA, he or she should contact the school now to see when the deadline for applications is.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution and she also write a college blog for

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