CU Boulder Task Force to Study Graduate Student Pay, Benefits
A new University of Colorado task force will examine the stipends and benefits paid to graduate student workers.
The task force, announced Tuesday in a post by the dean of the Graduate School , Ann Schmiesing, will be composed of the dean; four representatives from CU’s United Government of Graduate Students; and staff from the budget, data analytics and dean’s offices. The group will examine how CU’s pay and benefits compare to those of other institutions in the Association of American Universities.
“We understand the financial challenges graduate students face and are proud of our recent accomplishments to improve the pay schedule and increase the graduate student stipend rate,” Schmiesing wrote in the post. “The task force will look more deeply into how these stipend rates compare with our (Association of American Universities) public peers and examine the feasibility of various options for enhanced benefits.”
Graduate students have voiced concerns that the stipends they’re paid for teaching and research work do not amount to a living wage, especially in Boulder, and highlighted the lack of other benefits such as paid parental leave . As part of the university’s continued rollout of a new pay schedule this fall, in which graduate student workers received their first paycheck in August rather than at the end of September, an unknown number of graduate students received late paychecks .
Juan Garcia Oyervides is the president of the graduate student government and will serve on the task force. He said graduate student benefits and compensation are issues that need constant attention and have been priorities of the government for the last several years.
“The cost of living in Boulder has skyrocketed and has been skyrocketing for a couple of years,” Garcia Oyervides said. “I think that’s one of the main reasons behind it, because the pay that we receive has not been keeping up to the living expenses that we are experiencing here in Boulder.”
This year, graduate teaching and research assistants and instructors are paid an average of $21,451 to $24,793, according to data provided by the university . The stipend is for a 50 percent, nine-month appointment — though some graduate students have previously said they work more than 20 hours per week and struggle to find consistent employment during summers.
Their compensation packages include a tuition remission and $3,630 in health care premiums.
Schmiesing announced a second initiative Tuesday: a survey of graduate students focused on their experiences with funding and academic advising and mentorship. The initial results of the survey should be available by the end of the fall semester, Schmiesing wrote.
Garcia Oyervides said advisers and mentors have a large influence on graduate student experiences.
“A big portion of how grad students experience graduate school comes through their advisers and their mentors in their own departments,” he said. “I think it’s very important that there is a socialization of best practices between departments.”
The task force is expected to provide recommendations next spring, and graduate school officials plan to analyze survey results next spring, too.
Cassa Niedringhaus: 303-473-1106, firstname.lastname@example.org