Dear graduate students:
Last fall, as dean of the Graduate School, I convened a task force with the United Government of Graduate Students (UGGS) and the Office of Budget and Fiscal Planning to examine graduate student stipends and benefits and how they compare with our Association of American Universities (AAU) public peers. A draft report was posted in May, followed by a 60-day public comment period. A CU Boulder Today article captured a summary of the report.
On Aug. 30, I received the final report by the Graduate Task Force on Stipends and Benefits, which includes recommendations, in order of priority, that address graduate student fees, health care services and stipends. The report also provides detailed information on recent investments the university has made to graduate student faculty compensation and includes comparison data with CU Boulder’s AAU public peers.
At this time, I’d like to thank the members of the task force for their hard work throughout the year and in preparing this report. I’d also like to thank UGGS leadership and the UGGS general assembly for their work on prioritizing the recommendations in the report.
During the past four years, in partnership with UGGS, the university has made significant financial investments in graduate student faculty compensation. These investments include more than $8 million in annual funding to increase base stipend rates, an increase in the subsidy to the student gold health insurance plan from 70% to 91%, the provision of summer RTD transit passes to graduate students on summer appointments and the elimination of the athletic fee for graduate students.
Beginning in fall 2018, the university also eliminated all course and program fees. In the 2018–19 academic year, the university invested $35.2 million in stipends, $29 million for graduate tuition remission and $4.3 million for health insurance, for a total of $68.5 million.
These investments have made a significant impact on graduate student faculty compensation; yet, the university is committed to exploring the feasibility of making further investments. As the budget planning process for the 2020–21 academic year kicks off this fall, we will incorporate the task force’s recommendations into our planning to the extent possible, with a particular emphasis on the task force’s first priority, graduate student fees.
As the task force report points out, implementing these recommendations depends on budget availability, exploring ways to improve the current graduate student appointment funding model and addressing concerns raised during the public comment period. Approximately one-third of graduate funding currently comes from research grants, the budgets for which are often determined years in advance.
To this end, then, in the fall semester, Graduate School Dean Scott Adler and I will engage in substantive discussion and analysis with deans, chairs and directors, UGGS leaders, faculty advisory committees and budget officers, so that we can determine what is feasible over what time frame and develop a plan of action.
As we engage in discussion and analysis, we will be mindful that students on graduate student faculty appointments are first and foremost students. In this regard, and without hindering progress on higher-priority items, we will follow up on the task force report’s mention of the need to reinforce workload norms for graduate student faculty, not only to determine if there are any workload inequities, but also because reinforcing these norms could positively impact graduate students’ ability to proceed through their degree program in a timely fashion. Without hindering discussion and analysis of higher-priority recommendations, we will also continue to work on other issues mentioned in the report as worthy of further investment, such as parental leave.
As graduate students, you are critical to the teaching and research mission of the university and to the overall vitality of the campus community. We are committed to supporting graduate students and graduate education at CU Boulder, and we are grateful for your many contributions.
Executive Vice Provost for Academic Resource Management