Guest column: Phased plan to provide coverage for mandatory fees for graduate assistants

Sonia Kreidenweis and Colleen Webb
Sonia Kreidenweis, interim dean and vice provost of the Graduate School (left), and Colleen Webb, associate dean of the Graduate School.

We want to begin by extending our great appreciation to CSU’s leadership and community, especially our graduate student leadership and graduate assistants whose voice and passion helped bring a plan to cover graduate assistant mandatory fees to fruition. The announcement of this plan marks a significant step forward amid several years of calling attention to the issue of graduate assistant compensation. Our advocacy for graduate assistants and graduate students remains steadfast, and we are committed to future progress in improving the graduate student experience at CSU.

Interim President Miranda discussed the need for CSU to take a hard look at compensation and equity for our faculty, staff and graduate assistants at the Fall Address in September. With respect to graduate assistants, he referenced the need to first give particular focus to fees. The Office of the President, Office of the Provost, the Graduate School, and the Graduate Student Council closely collaborated, with support by the Office of the Vice President for Research, to create a plan for mandatory fee coverage. We extend special thanks to Interim Provost Jan Nerger for her work on developing the implementation plan.

Using a phased-in approach to implementation which will begin next semester, graduate assistants appointed as graduate teaching assistants (GTAs), graduate support assistants (GSAs), or graduate research assistants (GRAs) will receive 100% coverage of all mandatory graduate student fees by the 2025-2026 academic year (AY).

Beginning in the Spring of 2023, 50% of mandatory fees will be covered and increases will occur every academic year as follows:

Mandatory fee coverage by CSU

Spring 2023


AY 2023-24


AY 2024-25


AY 2025-26


This plan covers mandatory fees for graduate assistants, but does not apply to graduate students without a graduate assistantship appointment (e.g., non-appointed students, self-supporting or student hourlies). The mandatory fee coverage plan is one way to recognize our graduate assistants for their crucial contributions. Graduate assistants foster innovation in the research enterprise, drive creativity, mentor undergraduates, and energize strong teaching initiatives. Colorado State University deeply values these contributions and recognizes the need to improve overall compensation for graduate assistants. Additional plan details are and will continue to be shared on the Graduate School’s website.

Services supported by fees

It is important to understand that the covered mandatory fees are not being eliminated, reduced or forgiven. All student fees, including graduate assistant mandatory fees, pay for a large portfolio of services that support students in their personal, academic and professional lives. These services include the CSU Health Network, which provides medical and mental health services; Student Legal Services; student cultural centers; assistance for students with disabilities; resources and consultation related to renting and affordable housing; the Career Center services; and many other offices and programs that offer graduate student resources, counseling and support.

Overall compensation for graduate assistants

We commend the Graduate Student Council for their continued efforts over the last two years to keep the crucial issue of compensation front-and-center. CSU is aware of the growing cost of living in Northern Colorado and across the nation, and we are deeply concerned about the financial impact on our graduate assistants and the entire CSU community. While covering the mandatory fees of graduate assistants has been prioritized, the need to improve the competitiveness of stipends remains as a high priority.

Graduate assistant compensation has been a topic of conversation in the 2022-2026 Strategic Plan, in the 2022 Academic Master Plan, at the President’s Fall Leadership Forum on September 14, 2022, and at the Fall Address in September. Graduate assistant compensation will remain part of the University’s broader efforts to improve compensation for faculty, staff, and graduate assistants.

Recommendations for units: How to communicate financial support to students

Departments can help newly arriving graduate assistants to understand their benefits and educational expenses by using clearly written Offer Letters. An Offer Letter (to GAs or non-GAs) should clearly state all financial support while also addressing expenses such as fees. Offer Letter templates are available on the Office of the Provost’s website and will be updated as mandatory fee coverage percentages are phased in.

Prioritizing compensation packages for graduate assistants, above and beyond the minimum stipend, is essential to the support of a thriving graduate community and requires both ongoing and engaged efforts by all graduate programs. We recommend departments and programs implement an annual exercise, led by their graduate admissions committee, to review assistantship stipends and benefits at peer and aspirational institutions.

Prioritizing ongoing improvements

President Miranda laid out his institutional priorities for the academic year at the Fall Address. Those priorities included this clear, passionate message: “We have to do better. Our faculty, our staff, and our graduate assistants deserve to be paid comparably to peers around the country…”

We continuously strive to provide an inclusive, supportive, and professionally rewarding campus environment for all of our graduate students, and the GA Mandatory Fee Coverage Plan is a critical step forward in those efforts.

Sonia Kreidenweis
Interim Dean and Vice Provost of the Graduate School

Colleen Webb
Associate Dean of the Graduate School

Sonia Kreidenweis and Colleen Webb