Guide to Credits and Fees

Guide to enrolling in the “Right” number of units to avoid paying too much in tuition and fees in graduate school:

CSU graduate students are assessed tuition and several kinds of fees. In many cases, the amounts of these costs vary significantly with how many credits a student is registered to take. Thus, with a little forethought and planning, we can avoid paying too much for our grad students’ educations. This saves money for the department, the PIs paying for GRAs, and the students (who always pay the fees out-of-pocket when they are GTAs, and may pay these fees out-of-pocket when they are GRAs).

Here is a guide, ending in a cheat sheet, to figuring out how many credits to take and when:

First of all, let’s look at the total # of credits a student needs to take:

For a PhD student, 72 total credits are required, 37 of which need to be in 500+ level courses.

For a Master’s Degree student, 30 total credits are required, 16 of which need to be in 500+ level courses, with 12 of those 16 in “regular” (i.e. non-seminar, non-independent study, non-internship) courses.

Now, let’s look at how different categories of cost (tuition, different fees) scale with # of credits.

We’ll do this by semester, using 2015-2016 prices:

Tuition scales linearly with credit hours (to a point) – each credit costs $519.30 up to 9 credits for in-state residents. Each credit costs $1,273.10 for out-of-state residents. Above 9 credits, no additional tuition fees are charged for additional credits.

General fees are categorical- $128.86 per semester if a student is taking 1-5 credits, and $792.49 if a student is taking 6 or more credits.

University Technology Fees are always $25, period, so nothing to strategize about there.

University Facility Fees scale linearly with credit hours – $20.75 / credit for as many credits as you take.

Health and Counseling Fees are complicated. If a student is enrolled in 6 or more credits, these fees are part of the automatically assessed $792.49 General Fee. Nothing else to negotiate there.

However, if a student is enrolled in 5 or fewer credits, then the student is assessed a Health Service and Counseling Fee of $210.80 for Fall ($166.56 for health + $44.24 for counseling) and $210.80 for Spring (same breakdown); summer 2016 is likely fee-for-service, although that is not 100% decided as of now (August, 2015). These fees are REQUIRED for all students who are enrolled in the CSU health plan who are taking 1-5 credits. For students who have their own insurance who are taking 5 or fewer credits, they can choose to pay the health service and counseling fees if they want to use the CSU Health Network. If they don’t want to use the CSU Health Network, they don’t have to pay this fee.

Health Insurance

100% of the cost of the CSU Student Health Insurance plan is paid by the Graduate School for students serving as GTAs and GRAs as long as they are enrolled in 5 or more on-campus credits. For students serving as GTAs/GRAs in both Fall and Spring, the Graduate School will also cover the cost of summer insurance. For students serving as GTAs/GRAs for only one semester during the academic year, the Graduate School will cover the cost of health insurance for ONLY that semester – not the other semester OR the summer.  Graduate students enrolled in 4 or fewer credits are not automatically enrolled in the CSU Student Health Insurance plan! They have to complete an enrollment form at the CSU Student Insurance Office before the 10th day of classes (or do this online starting here: http://health.colostate.edu/student-health-insurance/domestic-undergraduategraduate-student-insurance/).

So what should our students do?

If we plan for a 5-year PhD, I think our domestic students should have a by-semester credit breakdown that looks like this for their 10 semesters in graduate school: (International students are different – see the end of this document)

11 credits (or 13– this option drops student down to the cheaper fees faster)

11 credits (or 13– this option drops student down to the cheaper fees faster)

11 credits (or 11– this option drops student down to the cheaper fees faster)

11 credits (or 5 – this option drops student down to the cheaper fees faster)

5 credits

5 credits

5 credits

5 credits

5 credits

5 credits

If we plan for a 2-year Master’s Degree, I think our domestic students should have a by-semester credit breakdown that looks like this for their 4 semesters in graduate school:

10 credits

10 credits

5 credits

5 credits

For our domestic students who are supported as GTAs:

Our students that have gone beyond 5 years (for a PhD) and 2 years (for a Master’s) and have accrued their 72 (for PhD) or 30 (for Master’s) credits should still enroll in 5 credits per semester. (Although it looks like it is more economical for our department to have them take 1 credit, and to reimburse them for the health insurance reimbursement they’ll lose for dropping below 5 credits plus the health and counseling fee they’ll be assessed for dropping below 6 credits, we don’t actually get that saved tuition $$ returned to our department … so it doesn’t benefit us).

For our domestic students who are supported as GRAs off of your grants:

If you are paying your students’ tuition and stipend off of your grant, the situation is slightly different. In that case, once students have gone beyond 5 years (for a PhD) and 2 years (for a Master’s) and have accrued their 72 (for PhD) or 30 (for Master’s) credits, it is a bit cheaper for you if they enroll in 1 credit per semester. At one credit, they lose the $3052 health insurance refund that comes from the Graduate School, and they are assessed the Health Service and Counseling Fee ($421.60 for the year) if they are enrolled in CSU health insurance (or if they have private insurance, but want to use the CSU Health Network). However, you can pay them this $3052 + $421.60 = $3473.60 as supplemental income so they are not penalized for taking only one credit. This, plus the total cost of enrolling for one credit for spring and fall ($1387 total) is still less than paying for 5 credits for spring and fall ($5708.22).

Note that enrolling in 1 credit is not a humane/viable option for our grad students with undergraduate student loans, as dropping below 5 credits eats into their deferment period.

For our international students:

If you are paying an international student (who can never receive in-state tuition) as a GRA, the Graduate School will cover the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition for your student as long as they are enrolled in 6 or more credits. Thus, the tuition cost to you for an international student is the same as the tuition cost for a domestic student. However, because they have to be enrolled in at least 6 credits to receive this so-called tuition premium from the Graduate School, international students will be assessed higher fees …(see the information in red 2 pages up) ~$1500/year more than domestic students.

For international students who are working as GTAs, the Graduate School is rolling out a different mechanism to erase the difference in tuition costs between domestic (who become in-state after year 1) and international students (who never become in-state). Stay tuned for more details as they become available.

Ideally, our PhD and Master’s Students teaching in the LIFE courses (especially during their first year, when they are being charged out-of-state tuition) should take 11-13 credits each semester, with the goal of completing as many of their 500-level requirements as possible during this time because their tuition is covered by their participation in LIFE.