Journal of College & University Student Housing Vol. 47 No. 3 - 81

The Price of Hiring Resident Assistants

There is no doubt the act of facilitating
Resident Assistant (RA) hiring processes
consumes large amounts of resources.
2015b, p. 122). In reality, and perhaps ironically, attempts by institutions to increase
efficiency tend to create time and resource
inefficiency (Murphy, 2015), which is problematic because time comes with the burden
of value (Barnett, 2015a) while remaining
scarce as a resource (Murphy, 2015).
	
There is no doubt the act of facilitating
Resident Assistant (RA) hiring processes
consumes large amounts of resources (Berg
& Stoner, 2016). A vast majority of those resources come in the form of human capital
and personnel time, both of which are already in limited supply (Stoner, 2018, p. 13).
Understanding the various personnel time
transactions-or the cost of their opportunities-deserves additional attention since
" the use of resources in one way prevents
their use in other ways " (Palmer & Raftery,
1999, p. 1551). Put another way, how much
time spent on routine job responsibilities
and opportunities are sacrificed or displaced
by facilitating RA staff interviews?
	
Across disciplines, much scholarship
exists exploring opportunity costs (e.g.,
Fernbach et al., 2015; Lippman & Rumelt,
2003; Payne et al., 1996; Posnett & Jan,
1996); but thus far such research endeavors end where housing literature begins.
All too frequently scholars compare the
additional-or " marginal " -costs between
an existing process and a new one (Torgerson & Spencer, 1996, p. 35), leaving a void in
the critical exploration of current personnel
deployment patterns and the resulting cost
of production. Therefore, this study aimed to
begin filling the gap in housing literature by
understanding the human capital investment

78

The Journal of College and University Student Housing

in facilitating resource intensive RA hiring
processes, specifically examining the personnel time investment and associated wages.

THE COST OF OPPORTUNITY
AND TIME EXCHANGES
For our analysis, we used an application of
opportunity costs as a lens because it is " arguably the most fundamental concept in economic reasoning " (Ferraro & Taylor, 2005,
p. 1). Simply put, opportunity cost " expresses
the basic relationship between scarcity and
choice " (Buchanan, 2017, p. 1). In the case
of this study, we present personnel time as
the primary variable because of its scarcity
(Murphy, 2015; Schroeder & Pike, 2001) and
perceived value (Barnett, 2015a). To further
quantify the actual cost, we extend our analysis to monetary considerations by converting
staff time into wage potential.
	
Due to the time commitment required
of housing staff to facilitate multi-faceted
RA hiring processes (Berg & Stoner, 2016),
opportunity costs served as an appropriate
lens because it quantified the personnel
resources while illuminating potential lost
opportunities. For instance, the tradeoff
of an entry-level staff member conducting a 30-minute RA candidate interview
is the necessary lost opportunity to complete 30-minutes of regular job duties (e.g.,
mediate a roommate conflict, adjudicate
a conduct case, follow-up on a facility concern, approve program proposals). Because
the previously mentioned " time bargaining " and " time-trading " is a typical practice employed by college administrators
(Guzmán-Valenzuela & Barnett, 2013, p. 1132),



Journal of College & University Student Housing Vol. 47 No. 3

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