CU’s Engineering College Waives Application Fees for PhD Programs

August 15, 2018 GMT

Prospective students who apply to PhD programs in CU’s College of Engineering and Applied Science can do so for free, thanks to a new program that is waiving application fees across the college.

The fee to apply to a PhD program, formerly $60, is being waived for applicants as part of a pilot program aiming to boost domestic applications and diversify the college. The program is open to U.S. citizens and permanent residents whose grade-point average from their undergraduate institution is at least 3.4. Students must apply to the University of Colorado before Dec. 1, 2018. Whether the program will continue in future years depends on whether it meets its goals.


Those goals are part of the college of engineering’s strategic vision, which was crafted last year under the leadership of Robert Braun, the college’s new dean. Over the next five years, the college aims to become the premier destination for top U.S. and international graduate students and to become one of the top 10 doctoral degree-granting engineering colleges in the nation. It is part of an ambitious strategic plan that also includes a goal of becoming the first public engineering school in the nation with a student body that is at least half female.

The college is the top-ranked engineering school in Colorado and the Rocky Mountain region. According to U.S. News and World Report, it is nationally ranked 30th among engineering programs and 11th among aerospace programs.

“We believe financial concerns shouldn’t keep our nation’s best and brightest students from applying to CU Engineering,” Meredith Canode, director of graduate programs in the college of engineering, wrote in an email. “We also recognize that diversity is essential to academic and workplace success. We are committed to creating an inclusive and collaborative community, so we particularly encourage applications from students who would broaden the diversity of our graduate community.”

The engineering college currently has the largest number of international students of any college at CU, with international students making up 34 percent of its PhD students in 2017. Its national student body, however, is less diverse. U.S. students of color made up only 10 percent of PhD students, and of 830 doctoral students who attended the college in 2017, only 12 were African-American. And while the number of white and international students applying to the college has risen substantially over time, percentages of U.S. students of color has increased only slightly.


For now, the pilot program is only being implemented in the engineering school, but Ann Schmiesing, dean of the graduate school, said she welcomes the program and will be “evaluating the outcomes.”

Costly application fees for graduate programs are routinely criticized as a barrier to accessing education for low-income students at universities across the nation. The Committee on Rights and Compensation, CU Boulder’s union for graduate student workers, praised the engineering school’s decision in a tweet and encouraged the rest of the university’s colleges to follow suit.

While the waived $60 will help students applying to the college, CU still presents challenges for graduate students. Boulder is the third most expensive college town in the nation, and its graduate student wages are the lowest in the PAC-12 system, amounting to only 65 percent of the regional self-sufficiency wage, according to the committee.