August 11, 2015
Review institutional support of its teaching mission and support toward its
graduate programs in the form of teaching assistantships (TA) and make
recommendations to the Executive Team related to future directions of this
support. If recommending increased support, provide guidance as to where
additional support may be generated and/or prioritize the importance of this
support in relationship to other College/Departmental needs.
Goal 1 – Enhance distinctive identity and reputation of Mines
• Create new and enhance existing large research initiatives focused on the
global challenges related to the earth, energy and environment.
Goal 2 – Build upon a student-centered campus culture of excellence, inclusion,
diversity and community
• Enhance opportunities for students to develop effective communication
skills as a complement to strong content expertise
Goal 3 – Build and diversify revenue streams and auxiliary enterprises
• Establish new or expand continuing education and executive education
enterprises that enhance the reputation, global reach and financial security
• Diversify federal research funding across multiple agencies while
increasing corporate and private research support.
Tom Boyd (Chair), Ramona Graves, Mike Kaufman, Kevin Moore
Current institutional investments (FY15) in the form of instructional support
directed toward students and graduate fellowship support not directly tied to
• Graduate Teaching Assistantships - $4.6M
• Student Hourly Support - $0.67M
• First-Year PhD Fellowships - $0.68M
• Differential Tuition Support - $4.4M
• Summer Tuition Fellowship Support - $1.7M
Analyses of peer benchmarking data and the institutional history of teaching
assistantship (TAs) budgets are provided as part of the attached document.
Using AY14 data, Mines reported to ASEE 154 TAs total. Based on metrics
derived from all institutions reporting to ASEE, for engineering programs the size
of Mines, one would expect the number of TAs to be about 223. There is, however,
a significant deviation in the prediction based on total institution size. If one
considers only smaller institutions (total enrollment < 16,000), one would predict
that Mines should support about 141 TAs. While Mines actually appears to provide
TAs appropriate to its overall size, many faculty and staff – for whom peer
departments lie in larger institutions, or for whom are in programs that traditionally
August 11, 2015
provide higher-levels of TA support than typical engineering units (e.g., CH) –
perceive Mines under supports its Teaching Assistant obligations.
As defined by institutional policy, Teaching Assistantships are awarded to
graduate students to assist in the education of other students, either undergraduate
or graduate, by teaching, tutoring, instructing or lecturing in laboratories or
recitations under the direction of a faculty member. Teaching Assistants are not
assigned full responsibility for teaching courses; rather they assist faculty members
in course instruction. Teaching Assistantships are supported by CSM as part of its
overall instructional budget.
Within this role, the cost of using TAs to provide instructional support is relatively
high. On an academic year basis, the cost of hiring one TA is about $33k/year. To
put this cost into context, this cost is a significant fraction of the cost of hiring an
additional instructional faculty member. The cost of supporting TAs, coupled with
institutional limitations both on the number of hours graduate students may by
employed and limitations on the instructional roles they may fill, mean that from
an instructional delivery standpoint, TAs are not a cost effective solution to
providing instructional support.
The need for instructional support to line faculty, however, will continue to rise.
As Mines moves toward a model of incorporating more active learning into its
curriculum, there will be increasing needs to provide additional instructional
support. Continuing to attempt to scale instructional support via increasing the
number of TAs will be cost prohibitive.
Finally, while TAs are rationalized and budgeted as a part of the instructional cost
of the institution, they are also used – particularly with our current limitations in
First-Year PhD Fellowship budget – to provide a mechanism for research-active
programs to recruit high-quality graduate students and, in this role, they provide
direct support to the research enterprise. This additional rationalization for the
allocation and deployment of TA budget complicates decisions related to the
appropriate number, use and deployment of TAs across campus.
Synopsis: We propose breaking the connection between providing graduate
financial aid aimed at supporting our research enterprise and the need to provide
cost-effective instructional support. Rather than relying on graduate TAs to
provide instructional support, we propose moving to a model where undergraduate
and graduate hourly employees provide primary instruction support. Graduate
financial aid would be retained and would be provided in the form of generic
graduate assistantships that are acknowledged by, and directly coupled to, the
graduate research enterprise.
Details: Consider the following assumptions and model:
• Within the current funding context, total funding available to support
August 11, 2015
instructional delivery and graduate assistantships is the sum of the existing
TA, First-Year Fellowship, and Student Hourly budgets. Total available is
• We recommend retention of the existing Differential Tuition and Summer
Tuition Fellowship programs to support required registration in the
summer and the difference between non-resident and resident tuition for
graduate students supported as full-time graduate assistants.
• We recommend that the primary instructional support be provided by
student hourly employees, mostly undergraduate students, but
supplemented with graduate students where necessary. If each
undergraduate hourly student is limited to working 5 h/wk at $15/h, the
total annual cost per hourly employee is $2,400. Graduate employees
could work up to 20 h/wk at the same hourly rate, but would do so as
hourly employees. This employment contract would be outside of any
additional financial aid they may receive.
• If existing graduate TAs provide, on average, 15 h/wk instructional
support across the different departments, then the 154 TAs employed in
Fall 2014 provided 2,310 h/wk of instructional support through a revised
program to provide the same level of support that is currently provided.
Assuming half of this support could be provided by undergraduate students
working 5 h/wk and the remaining provided by graduate students working
20 h/wk, under the proposed program, we would need to employ 231
undergraduate students and 58 graduate students to deliver our
instructional support. Total cost of this support would be $1.1M –
compared to the current TA cost of $4.6M.
• If we fully fund an instructional hourly budget at $1.1M from the existing
$5.95M, there would be $4.87M remaining in this budget that could be
used as financial aid to support generic graduate assistants. At a cost of
$33k per graduate assistant, the existing budget would support about 148
graduate assistants. This compares to about 175 TA and First-Year
Fellowship awards currently supported.
• Base the size and distribution of the graduate assistant budget on the
number of research-active graduate students. As a strawman, target one
graduate assistant position for every three externally supported, research-
based graduate students, and one graduate assistant position for every six
self-supported, research-based (PhD and Thesis Masters) graduate
• Based on Fall 2014 enrollment, full implementation of the assistantship
assignments defined above would require budget to support 202 graduate
assistants. These assistantships would be distributed among departments as
August 11, 2015
given in the table below and would require an additional budget increment
Model - Graduate Assistant (GA) Allocation
Total Target With Current
Applied Math & Statistics
Chemical & Biological Engineer
Civil & Environmental Enginrng
Economics and Business
Electrical Enginrg & Comp Sci
Metallurgical & Materials Eng
Also include (purple column) is the distribution of graduate assistants
available without the $1.7M budget increment. If we were to implement
this model today, this shows the size and distribution of graduate assistants
that would be available without additional budget actions.
Issues: The committee identified the following items as additional considerations
needing further discussion.
• The number of students providing instructional support in this model is a
factor of two larger than is currently being utilized. Are there even enough
qualified students to fill these positions? How would departments manage
large cohorts of assistants?
• Would moving away from graduate teaching assistantships positively or
negatively impact instructional quality?
• Distribution of instructional support budget and graduate assistantship
budget in some departments would be significantly different from how
teaching assistantship budgets are currently deployed. How do we
smoothly transition to a new distribution model?
• Finally, full implementation of this model would require additional
graduate assistantship budget. Can we develop a model through which the
institution/departments/programs can generate revenue to support this
Pilot Activities: For the 2016 academic year, we propose maintaining flat TA
budgets to the college. The additional $200k of new funding provided through the
AY2016 budget process would be used to pilot hourly instructional support in
Spring, 2016 semester. We propose to formally pilot the hourly instructional model
August 11, 2015
in two departments, along side the more traditionally used teaching assistantship
model. The Director of Assessment would assist in the development of assessment
activities to evaluate the overall effectiveness of instructional support delivered
through the pilot program.
In addition, the Deans would actively encourage other departments to reprogram
their existing teaching assistantship budgets into hourly and graduate assistant
portions and conduct their own pilot activities. In cases where departments choose
to do this, we would again encourage them to work with the Director of
Assessment to conduct formalized assessment of the effectiveness of these
To better develop and frame these activities, during the Fall semester, Academic
Affairs would pull together a working group consisting of representatives from
each of the pilot program departments, the Deans, the Director of Assessment and
representatives from the Department of Physics. The Physics Department has a
long history of using hourly student employees to provide high-quality
instructional support. The intent of this working group would be to leverage off of
experience gained by the Physics Department to guide the design of pilot program
efforts in other departments.
Possible Long-Term Support Mechanisms: More broadly defined graduate
assistant appointments may be more competitive at recruiting high-quality
graduate students into our research-intensive graduate programs rather than
offering them teaching assistantship awards. As such, the more limited number of
graduate assistant appointments that can be currently funded under the model
proposed above (150 compared to the 175 currently supported out of TA and First-
Year Fellowship funds) may be adequate to support the research enterprise.
However, given the support metrics defined above, if we were to fund 202 general
graduate assistant appointments, we would need to identify another $1.7M budget.
Several mechanisms could be considered in providing for this additional budget.
• Expansion of Non-Thesis Degree Programs: Encourage departments to
supplement their base graduate assistant budget through direct allocation
of supplemental budget supported through additional tuition revenue
generated via expanded non-thesis, non-degree special, and certificate
program enrollment. In this model, the base graduate assistant budget
would be fixed at the current level. Growth of this budget would be
through incremental adjustments based on increases in enrollment net of
costs associated with the program, or through base-building institutional
prioritization of this budgetary item (i.e., the institutional graduate
assistant budget would grow through the same processes currently used).
Departments would be encouraged to supplement their base graduate
assistant budgets by growing their non-research related educational
activities, with the size of the supplemental budgetary allocation being
August 11, 2015
directly tied to size of the new non-research enrollment.
• Realignment of existing Adjunct Budget: Our existing adjunct budget is
$1.5M. Could the need for adjunct instructors be reduced and this budget
realigned to support graduate assistantships?
• Realignment of Summer Tuition Fellowship Program: The Summer
Tuition Fellowship Program provides full tuition support for the required 3
credit hours of registration for all students employed on full-time RA’s
from which overhead is collected on the stipend. Budget for the program is
$1.7M. Could we reduce the size of institutional support for this program
by converting into a Differential Tuition support program as we do during
the academic year? Based on Summer 2015 enrollment, if we did this, the
size of the Summer Program could be reduced by $1.1M. If these
institutional savings were reprogramed, this would support an additional
34 graduate assistants. Obviously, the institutional savings would translate
into additional costs for our research programs. At the current tuition rates,
this cost would be $2,877 of tuition for each student working as an RA
during the summer.