Published: Nov. 11, 2016

Marley Hodgson, founder of Mad Greens and CU Boulder alumnus

Marley Hodgson, alumnus and co-founder of Mad Greens

A recent survey of nearly 11,000 CU Boulder graduates found that 68 percent are very satisfied with their education and related opportunities and 28 percent are somewhat satisfied. 

The survey was part of a larger one conducted by the four-campus CU system, including the Denver and Colorado Springs campuses, as well as the Anschutz Medical Campus.

The median income of employed Boulder grads was $79,000. By comparison, the most recent 2015 U.S. Census data show a median income of $63,909 for an entire household in Colorado. Across the U.S., the median household income was $55,775 last year.

“I do think that the benefits outweighed the cost, not necessarily because of my career, but because of the college experience itself,” said Carrie Hartman, 39, who worked as a teacher for almost a decade and is now staying home with her two boys. She graduated from CU Boulder with a bachelor's in anthropology and religious studies and later returned to get an elementary education teaching certificate.

The Denver resident says her undergraduate degrees helped her teach and exposed her to diversity, while the teaching certificate was used daily in the classroom. Hartman hopes to eventually return to teaching, or she may explore writing part time.

Degree related to line of work

About half of all CU alumni who are working say their jobs today are strongly related to their education, while 34 percent said their work was somewhat related, the survey found.

Daniel Ramos, alumnus and executive director of One Colorado

Daniel Ramos, alumnus and executive director of One Colorado

Graduate Daniel Ramos of Denver sees a close relationship between his work and lessons learned in the Presidents Leadership Class at CU Boulder. But, he admits, CU Boulder wasn’t his first choice. He had his sights set on schools outside of Colorado. He was recruited, decided to apply, and now says he’s glad he got in.

“It taught me a lot about being really critical of the world and reflecting on myself as a leader,” said 29-year-old Ramos, executive director of One Colorado, a statewide advocacy organization focused on equality for (LGBTQ) lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Coloradans.

“There’s no right way to do leadership, but there’s a wrong way to do leadership,” said Ramos, who attended CU Boulder from 2005 to 2010 and graduated with degrees in sociology and Spanish, as well as a certificate from the Presidents Leadership Class.

Ramos, who is Latino, is among the 66 percent of Hispanic alumni from CU Boulder who report being very satisfied. White graduates from CU Boulder (about 70 percent) report being very satisfied, while 55 percent of Asian alumni and 65 percent of African-American alumni say they also are very satisfied.

More than half of Boulder alumni who graduated from 2007 to 2016 say they are very satisfied. Among those who graduated 10 to 14 years ago, 66 percent are very satisfied, and 75 percent of those who graduated 15 or more years ago report being very satisfied.

Alumni entrepreneurs

Marley Hodgson, 43, graduated in 2003 with an MBA from CU Boulder’s Leeds School of Business. He is the co-founder of Colorado-based MAD Greens, a fast casual restaurant chain. In his second year, the founder of Noodles & Company, Aaron Kennedy, came to Leeds to seek some help and advice from the business school and conducted a live business case. Hodgson was previously living in New York and thought there was room for a salad-centric, fast casual dining concept, but he didn’t take action until the exposure at CU Boulder.

“During this time I got to ask Aaron a ton of questions and see firsthand what it took to start and grow a restaurant chain,” Hodgson said. “However, I didn’t act on it until spending that time with Aaron. He inspired me to bring the idea to life and get started.”

MAD Greens has 29 restaurants in four states with plans to expand to 40 in 2017. Hodgson expects the company, which marks 12 years in December, to grow into other states in 2018 and beyond.

“The Leeds School at CU Boulder provides a terrific, balanced and rigorous business education. All of the fundamental business disciplines are well addressed as are the social and environmental concerns regarding business,” Hodgson said. “I have always been a big believer in the triple bottom line (social, environmental and financial), and I think Leeds and CU Boulder helped me to solidify that belief in such a manner that I could found and run a company that cherishes and supports those beliefs.”

Many grads call Colorado home

Most CU system alumni responding to the survey – or 65 percent – earned a bachelor’s degree and 20 percent earned a master’s. The rest were graduates with doctoral, MBA, law and medical degrees.

Of those who took the survey, a little over half of those who graduated from the CU Boulder campus still live in Colorado. Overall, six out of 10 CU graduates live in the state.

The study was conducted in spring 2016 by Keating Research and OnSight Public Affairs, both Colorado public opinion polling firms.