The Graduate School, with the United Government of Graduate Students (UGGS) and the Office of Budget and Fiscal Planning, launched a task force in October 2018 to examine graduate student stipends and benefits. The task force met through fall 2018 and spring 2019 semesters and posted a draft report on May 8, 2019, for a 60-day community comment period. The final report was submitted to Executive Vice Provost for Academic Resource Management Ann Schmiesing on August 30, 2019. Her written response to the task force report was included in CU Boulder Today on September 17, 2019.

How has the graduate student experience improved in recent years?

Since June 2016, campus leadership has worked with the United Government of Graduate Students (UGGS) to enhance the graduate student experience and ensure academic success. Here’s the full complement of what we offer.

Graduate Student Orientation

Effective fall 2016, the Graduate School partnered with UGGS and New Student and Family Programs to sponsor an expanded graduate student welcome day—both fall and spring semesters—to create welcoming start for graduate students and acquaint them with resources, programs, and services to help them thrive and succeed.

Graduate School Peer Mentoring Program

Now in its third year, the peer mentoring program has more than doubled in size since its inception and continues to provide guidance across disciplinary boundaries and build community among graduate students.

Graduate Writing Support

In fall 2018, the Graduate School hired a director of graduate community and professional development to lead—among other initiatives—a variety of writing support opportunities for graduate students. Writing support offerings have continued to grow to offer support to students throughout their graduate careers, from the getting started workshops, write-ins, and accountability seminaros, to dissertation writing boot camps.

Three Minute Thesis (3MT) Competition

In spring 2018, Graduate School held its first annual Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition, an internationally recognized event that requires graduate students to describe their research in three minutes in front of a panel of judges and a live audience. The 2019's winner went on to win the regional competition in Tuscon, AZ, and will be respreenting CU Bouldet at the national competition in Nashville in December 2019. This year's 3MT competition is scheduled for January 31, 2020.

Professional Development Digital Badges

In fall 2018, the Graduate School and the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs (OPA) partnered to offer a series of professional development workshops. In fall 2019, we created a series of four digital badges that students may earn in the areas of professionalism, leadership, mentoring, and communication. These digital credentails, earned through experiential learning workshops, can be included on LinkedIn profiles and résumés showing valuable skills. These workshops are designed to help graduate students and post-docs expand core competencies, explore diverse career options, and develop effective job search strategies.

Career Services

The Graduate School collaborates closely with CU Boulder’s Career Services and sponsors workshops and networking events for graduate students exploring a variety of career paths in academia and education, government, industry, and nonprofits.

Graduate Student Appreciation Week

In spring 2018, the Graduate School, along with a number of university partners, organized a full week of special events and celebrations to recognize the many contributions that graduate students make to CU Boulder and the community. Momentum for this week of recognition continues to grow, with offfices and units across campus finding new ways to show their support for graduate students, This year's appreciation week is March 30 through April 3, 2020.

CU Boulder Today Graduate Student Edition/Twice-monthly Newsletter

To communicate effectively and efficiently with our graduate students, the Graduate School launched a twice-monthly CU Boulder Today graduate student edition in fall 2018, with news, features, academic and funding deadlines, and professional development opportunities.

Frequent Surveys & Assessment 

The Graduate School partners with various campus offices to do targeted quick-action surveys on pressing matters as well as comprehensive surveys to provide the data needed to identify short and long term issues to address.  

In fall 2018, the Graduate School launched a survey to assess aspects of the graduate student experience, focusing on two key factors: funding and academic advising/mentorship. The Graduate School provided results of the survey in spring semester of 2019.

How has the graduate student compensation improved in recent years?

CU Boulder has invested more than $8 million in the past four years to increase base stipend rates, eliminate the graduate student athletic fee and course and program fees, and cover the expense for summer RTD transit passes for graduate students on graduate student appointments. 

The graduate student base stipend rate has increased substantially for three consecutive years.

  • 6.5 percent increase in fall 2016
  • 5.9 percent increase in fall 2017
  • 6.2 percent increase in fall 2018
  • 6.2 percent increase in fall 2019 

Standard salaries for graduate students working at 50% time (20 hrs./week, 9-month appointment), by job category, for academic year 2018-2019, are as follows:

  • Graduate Teaching Assistant, $21,451
  • Graduate Part Time Instructor $24,793
  • Graduate Research Assistant, $23,797

Note: As part of the compensation package offered to graduate students in the above categories, CU Boulder also pays for the cost of tuition and contributes 91% to the cost of the Student Gold insurance plan. Prior to fall 2012, CU Boulder paid for only 70 percent of the cost of health insurance.

Fall Payment Schedule Improved

Effective August 2017, a new payment schedule was initiated for graduate student teaching assistants and graduate part-time instructors to receive their first pay checks of the academic year at the end of August, instead of waiting until the end of September to get paid. That pay schedule was extended to include graduate research assistants in fall 2018.

RTD Transit Passes Extended for Summer Months

Effective summer 2018, graduate students on summer student faculty appointments held active RTD passes without any additional cost to them.

Graduate Student Fees Reduced

Effective fall 2018, graduate students benefited from the elimination of course and program fees (university wide) and from the elimination of the athletic fee (graduate students only). 

What does a typical compensation package look like for graduate students receiving university support?

Standard compensation packages for graduate students working at 50% time (20 hrs./week, 9-month appointment), by residency, for academic year 2018-2019, are as follows:

Resident Student

Comphensation Type Amount

Stipend – Average 50%, Nine-month Appointment


Insurance Contribution


Average Resident Tuition *Average tuition amount is inclusive of all colleges and schools.

Average student fees *Average of AY18/19 fees paid by graduate students



Total Compensation


Non-resident Student

Comphensation Type Amount

Stipend – Average 50%, Nine-month Appointment


Insurance Contribution


Average Non-resident Tuition * Average tuition amount is inclusive of all colleges and schools.

Average students fees * Average of AY18/19 fees paid by graduate students



Total Compensation


How does CU Boulder graduate student compensation compare with peer institutions?

Fee Comparision

Data were gathered from 33 of CU Boulder’s AAU public peers through web research and direct contact to compare CU Boulder’s mandatory graduate student fees and how other universities handle fees for students on appointment.
Mandatory student fees ranged from $328 to $3,058 with an average of $1,525; CU’s fees, at $1,762, are 9% above the average of this group.
Of the 33 AAU public peers:

  • Twelve universities (36%), including CU Boulder, do not pay any portion of fees for students on appointment.
  • Nine universities (27%) provide partial to full coverage of fees, depending on percentage of appointment.
  • Six universities (18%) pay a set percentage of fees, ranging from 50% to 93%.
  • Six universities (18%) pay full fees for students on appointments of 25% or above.

Stipend Comparison

Information regarding stipends was gathered through the annual AAU Data Exchange (AAUDE). Twenty public AAU universities provided data for AY 2017-18

Compared with the 19 AAU public peers:

  • In AY 2017-18, CU Boulder’s was $2,839, or 16%, above the average base TA stipend.
  • In AY 2017-18, CU Boulder was $3,371, or 18%, above the average for RA stipends.
What were the recommendations of the task force?

Addressing mandatory student fees was identified as the top priority for implementation by the task force. The task force recommends the following:

  • Dependent on budget availability, move to 100% remission of mandatory fees for all eligible graduate student faculty (those with appointment of 20% or greater).
    • This recommended coverage for all eligible students on appointment is intended to mitigate funding equity issues that may exist across disciplines and programs. This may require a phase-in period of two-to-four years to fully implement due to budget constraints.
  • Consider the feasibility of implementing a separate fee structure for graduate students to better reflect their usage and reliance on the services provided by the fee proceeds.

Regarding health and wellness, the task force recommends the following:

Explore options to expand dental coverage of major dental work in addition to preventive care. Examine all feasible options to expand this benefit at the lowest possible cost to the student, balanced against financial feasibility of such an offering.

  • Expand and improve mental health services for graduate students, including but not limited to the following:
  • Increase access to services at Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) and in the community.
  • Increase graduate student specific groups and workshops.
  • Expand the location of services and times to accommodate graduate student schedules.
  • Hire additional staff specializing in graduate student care.

Regarding graduate student faculty stipends, the task force recommends that the university reset the benchmark utilizing the current cost of living and education expenses while recognizing internal equity considerations as compared with ranked faculty.

What are the next steps?

Executive Vice Provost of Academic Resources Ann Schmiesing acknowledged receipt of the report on Sept. 16 and indicated that the campus’s focus for the fall would be on fees. Graduate School Dean Scott Adler and Schmiesing recently met with many stakeholders on campus and will consider the feedback from these meetings, along with the task force's recommendations, and incorporate them—to the extent feasible—into this fall's planning for next year's budget.