The Student Staff Experience and Intent to Return

Exploring the Student Staff Experience

Student staff members—commonly known as resident assistants or community assistants—support primary functions in our residence halls, facilitate community development, and provide learning opportunities to residents. For a position so critical to residence life, in particular one that continues to evolve and grow, it is imperative that we understand the current student staff experience: what they learn, and how important quality student staff members are to the broader college student experience. However, even with all of this research and our anecdotal understanding of the importance of the position, little empirical research exists on what RAs gain from their experience and how quality RAs relate to the overall housing experience of residents. Furthermore, what research does exist is often limited to single-campus studies or qualitative research.

To that end, this research note explores the student staff experience using a national data set of over 4,000 student staff from nearly 50 institutions to explore intent to return to student staff positions and how it relates to the broader student staff experience.

Key Questions:
1. How many student staff members intend to return to their positions for the next year?
2. What aspects of the student staff experience are most closely related to intent to return?

Key Points:

  • Overall, the majority of student staff members intend to return to their positions.
  • Student staff who intend to return general report higher levels of learning and satisfaction compared to those choosing not to return.
  • The concepts most closely related to student staff intent to return include job expectations, compensation, and learning related to personal competencies and empathy.

78% of student staff intending to return said their student staff experience gave them the confidence to assume greater responsibility in the future.

How many student staff members intend to return to their positions for the next year?

Figure 1 in the research note displays the results of a question asking about student staff members’ plans to return to their position for the next academic year. The majority of respondents, 54%, plan to return to their positions. Of those who are not returning, the majority are graduating, transferring, or not returning to the institution for the next academic year. Just 1% of student staff indicated they were not rehired for their position. The majority of those selecting “other” specified options that would fit into an existing category, such as choosing not to return, intending to return, or not returning to the institution.

To access all the data in this robust research note, just fill out the form to the right. Looking for more information on student staff in higher education? Check out our infographic, “Student Staff in Housing: The Big Picture.”