Published: March 19, 2019

Leslie Reynolds

Leslie J. Reynolds Interim Dean of the Graduate School Senior Associate Dean of Libraries

Dear graduate students:

As part of our ongoing commitment to improving your graduate student experience at CU Boulder, the Graduate School partnered with the Office of Data Analytics in October 2018 to survey graduate students on issues surrounding mentorship and funding. Former Graduate School Dean Ann Schmiesing provided the initial survey results in the Dec. 18, 2018, issue of CU Boulder Today. Below are highlights from the complete survey results.

Response Rates
At the close of the survey, 2,877 graduate students had responded, yielding a response rate of almost 60%.

Response rates were excellent:

  • The response rate for first year graduate students was 63 percent (988/1,569).
  • The response rate for continuing graduate students was 58 percent (1,889/3,255).

This represents a marked increase in response rates from previous surveys:

  • The 2018 spring housing survey response rate was 34 percent (1,676/4,874).
  • The 2014 fall graduate student climate survey response rate was 37 percent (1,603/4,328).

Survey Overview and Highlights

  • Graduate students are largely satisfied with relationships between faculty and students, the quality of teaching, and helpfulness of staff.
  • The majority of graduate students are satisfied with their advisors, based on 18 characteristics. Our PhD students indicated they agree that their advisor serves as an advocate and encourages them to publish as sole or first author and to deliver talks or present posters at conferences. Our master’s students indicated they agree that their advisor serves as an advocate, is knowledgeable about formal degree requirements and generally performs the role well.
  • A majority of graduate students know whom to contact when they have questions about departmental or program procedures.
  • The clarity of our communication with incoming graduate students related to offers of financial support has improved, with more first year students indicating their understanding of this support. Changes were made to the admissions offer letter template in 2016 to provide more clarity on number of years of guaranteed funding, fees and summer funding.
  • The majority of respondents reported that they feel welcome at CU Boulder and within their program but would like more opportunities to establish relationships across disciplines.

Areas for the Graduate School to explore for improving the graduate experience

  • 85 percent of respondents reported that they feel welcome at CU Boulder and 86% within their program.
    • Expand on recent efforts to foster cross-disciplinary work and friendships among graduate students, such as the peer mentoring program and the annual Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition.
  • 49 percent of respondents reported the quality of academic advising and guidance as “Very Good” or “Excellent.”
    • Develop new opportunities for improving mentorship by facilitating conversations with departments around best practices in mentoring and advising as well as exploring faculty training on the topic.
  • 44 percent of PhD students indicated that 100% of their expenses were covered by their doctoral funding.
    • Continue to provide students information on internal and external funding opportunities to supplement their income.
  • 44 percent of respondents reported that the cost of housing is a major obstacle to their academic progress.
    • Continue to work with Housing and Dining Services to explore affordable housing options and ensure that graduate students’ needs are considered as part of the university’s housing master plan.
  • 42 percent of respondents reported that they intend to pursue a career outside of academia.
    • Continue to expand the Graduate School’s and Career Services’ professional development offerings in the areas of career exploration and nonacademic job searches.
  • 37 percent of respondents reported that “feeling overwhelmed” was a major obstacle to their academic progress.
    • Explore opportunities to partner with academic departments and with support services, such as Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), to address graduate students’ feelings of being overwhelmed.
  • 20 percent of respondents reported that they are struggling financially and 50% of master’s respondents reported that they will have debt from their graduate education of more than $10,000.
    • Collaborate with campus administration and United Government of Graduate Students (UGGS) to identify ways to provide greater financial support to our graduate students on appointment. Recent changes to address this issue include stipend increases, revised pay schedule and summer bus passes. In addition to the initiatives above, the Graduate School plans to carry out more frequent and focused assessments to help us understand and quantify issues and to respond to them in a more agile and timely manner.

Thank you to the many graduate students who participated in this fall survey. Your input and feedback are invaluable as we continue to look for ways to improve your experience at CU Boulder.



Leslie J. Reynolds
Interim Dean of the Graduate School
Senior Associate Dean of Libraries

Read survey results from general questions

Read survey results from mentorship questions