How Does the Number of Students Impact the Resident Assistant Experience?

This research note explores the question of whether the number of students that a resident assistant (RA) is responsible for impacts the RA’s experience, leveraging data from the 2013-2014 ACUHO-I/Skyfactor Benchworks Student Staff Assessment. Over 3000 student staff members responded to the assessment.

Thirty-four percent of resident assistants (RAs) are responsible for 30 or fewer students; 43% have 31 to 50 students; and 23% have more than 50 students. Perhaps not surprisingly, RAs who are responsible for larger groups of students report spending more hours per week working as an RA. Those who are responsible for more students do not differ from those RAs with fewer students on some measures of satisfaction, such as hours worked, constraints on leaving campus, and balancing academics and job responsibilities. However, RAs with more than 50 residents are less satisfied than those with fewer residents with job training, specifically as it relates to effectively carrying out their administrative duties.

RAs with 31 to 50 residents are more likely to report that their student staff experience contributed to interpersonal development in the key areas of listening to residents–and
of understanding others–by learning to appreciate the student point of view. However, the number of students for which an RA is responsible does not appear to be related to whether the student staff experience contributes to interpersonal development in any of the other key areas. Number of residents also does not appear to be related to any of the other key learning outcomes. RAs who are responsible for fewer students report greater levels of respect and acceptance among their residents than RAs with more students. Overall, the number of students for which an RA is responsible does not appear to impact the RA experience dramatically, except for increased work hours, but further research should be done to explore the extent to which it may impact the student resident experience.

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