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Community Advisor position changes payment plan


Beginning fall semester 2017, payment for Community Advisors (CAs) will switch from a $1,000 stipend each semester to a grant covering the cost of rooming through the College. Monetarily, this grant comes out to $5,856 per year. The 292.8 percent raise comes with additional job responsibilities and a cap on the number of hours CAs can work at other on campus jobs to just four hours a week.

According to Joe Rolón, director of Residence Life, information sessions for potential CAs held in November, January and February discussed the possibility of switching to the grant system, but students were made aware of the final decision last Wednesday during the group process session of their application. For some like Tim Brennhofer ’19, these changes impact his decision to accept the CA position if offered.

“The one caveat to the changes in the compensation that causes alarm for me is that I can’t hold another on campus job,” Brennhofer said. “I want to be able to do both because contributing to community is an entirely different aspect of Grinnell than working in a leadership role and leading students in different capacities.”

The grant will go directly towards the student’s aid package, which for some, may already cover the cost of rooming. In this case, Residence Life is still trying to determine a system that would allow for the students to use the extra funds towards self-help or other charges on the student’s bill, but this will be addressed on a case by case basis as every student’s aid package differs.

Compensation for CA type duties at many similar institutions is also given in the form of a room grant. This allows the CA payment to be nontaxable, and further benefit the students. The new payment plan was developed through discussions between Residence Life, Human Resources, Financial Aid and Student Affairs, particularly Andrea Conner, associate vice president of Student Affairs.

“CAs have always worked hard and it is a good thing that they are compensated for that.  And with Financial Aid working with Residence Life, I hope for [it] to be positive for everyone involved,” Rolón wrote in an email to The S&B. “Given the dramatic increase in applications this year (both in quantity and quality), I do see this a positive switch.”

Mollie Jo Blahunka ’17 is currently in her seventh semester as a member of Residence Life, serving this year as a CAM for East Campus. When Blahunka began serving as a CA her second year in 2014 it was the first year the CA position was a paid position. At the time the students received a $500 stipend, which increased in 2016 to $1000 to reflect the new on-call duties placed on CAs.

As the duties for CAs continue to increase, next year potentially including weeknight on-call duties, Blahunka believes the switch to room grants, and therefore a large pay raise, reflects a necessary compensation.

“I do [think it’s a good change]. I think it’s not going to please everyone, and we’re not going to find an option that is going to please everyone, … what we have found time and time again is that we work way more than we’re paid for,” Blahunka said.

Carrie Stallings ’19 was a CA during fall 2016 but ultimately had to step down from her position as she had to make the financial decision to move off campus. Because she loved the job and her relationships amongst Residence Life staff, Stallings would have liked to return to a CA position next year, had she been made aware of the changes to the payment plan before the applications were due.

“It definitely could’ve changed things for me. … I just wish I would’ve had time to consider it,” Stallings said.

Stallings was also blindsided by the amount she was taxed on her stipend from last semester, claiming her taxes took out 350 dollars. She has yet to receive a clear explanation about stipend and tax policies from the College, having been told different reasons from the cashier, payroll and Residence Life.

“I think Res Life needs to work on its transparency not only with its staff but with its students. … No one ever disclosed any of [the amount of tax] to us and said, ‘hey put away some of this money’ so I’m feeling pretty screwed,” she said.

Rolón stresses that with the change, Residence Life is willing to work with students and the financial aid office to determine how the grant affects their financial aid package or their ability to work other on campus jobs. Brennhofer hopes he can work with the two to develop a plan for maintaining his other on campus commitments after he finds out if he has been rehired.

“They let us know [if we have been hired] before spring break,” Brennhofer said. “The issue with that is we only have I believe a week or a week and a half to either accept or refuse the offer which is a really short window to make really large financial decisions for the upcoming year.”

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