President Bruce Benson's newsletter

President's Newsletter

August 2016

Dear Alumni and Friends,

It's good to hear you're doing so well. Alumni told us so in our recently completed survey, and the results are important to our friends as well since they speak to the university's value. For the first time, we took a comprehensive look at alumni from all four CU campuses, ranging from last year's graduates to those like me who earned degrees more than 50 years ago.

We conducted the survey because we wanted some insight into the job we are doing and how things are going for our alumni. The effort started with musings a few years back about the value of the liberal arts, of which I am a big proponent. We looked at degrees earned by the CEOs of Colorado's top 25 companies to see if there was a common pattern. We found that most had an undergraduate degree in the liberal arts and an advanced degree in specialized areas such as law or business. The effort spurred a wider discussion about CU alumni and how their education has served them. We decided to ask.

In my job, many people share their CU experiences with me. The vast majority are overwhelmingly positive. Some are pointedly negative. Yet anecdotal feedback to the university president is far from scientific.

Certainly surveys such as the one we completed are snapshots in time, providing a somewhat limited view of any subject. We also know that many factors go into things such as earnings or satisfaction with a college education. However, we wanted to keep the survey simple, seeking only a handful of data points, including information on careers and earnings. We are heartened by your responses and the findings.

We received 15,225 responses, a 6 percent response rate, well above the 3 percent or so we expected. Nearly two-thirds earned a bachelor's degree from a CU campus and another 20 percent earned a master's. The remainder earned doctorates or professional degrees in medicine and law. Some 4 percent had multiple degrees from CU.

Among the key takeaways from the survey (you can see more detail in this overview):

  • CU alumni are extremely satisfied with the education they received, with more than 95 percent reporting they were "very satisfied" or "somewhat satisfied." More than two-thirds of those, on average, were in the "very satisfied" category.
  • You are employed at higher rates than the U.S. labor force (74 percent vs. 68 percent) and those with a bachelor's degree from CU earn more ($68,000 annually) than the national average ($57,252) or Colorado average ($48,818).
  • Just over half of you report that your CU education strongly relates to your job, most notably those in health care; art, design and entertainment; and science, technology and engineering.
  • When weighing the costs of obtaining a degree against the benefits, about 87 percent said the benefits outweigh the cost. Of those 87 percent, the median income was $74,000. Of the 13 percent who said the benefit did not outweigh the cost, their median income was $39,000.
  • When asked to rate their feelings toward CU, nearly 70 percent were "very favorable" and another 25 percent "somewhat favorable," for a 95 percent favorability rating.

This survey tells me we are on the right track. We know that some individuals will have had different experiences and maintain different impressions, but overall the results say a CU education is serving students and alumni well.

The highlights above are only the tip of the iceberg. With such a robust response, we are able to mine data for campuses, colleges, departments and majors. It's important for us to continually reflect on the job we are doing. That involves considerably more than surveys, but they are an important arrow in the assessment quiver.

Thank you to all who participated in the survey. You help us make CU a better place.

For feedback, contact


Bruce Benson


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  • August, A snapshot of you
  • June, The administrative myth
  • May, Seeking insight
  • April, Connecting health
  • March, Free speech forum
  • February, History and humanities


  • December, Enriching diversity
  • November, Veterans: Impact and opportunity
  • October, Tackling mental health
  • September, Marketing a great university
  • August, Coming of Age
  • June, Sunny futures
  • May, Vision to see the future
  • April, Momentum in Denver
  • March, Public higher education's changing face
  • February, Health and medicine: modest beginnings, lofty aspirations 


  • November, Leadership lessons
  • October, Learning how to learn
  • September, CU's largest real estate gift
  • August, What for, not how much
  • July, The bogeyman in the basement
  • May, Private gain or public good?
  • April, Funding outlook: sunny today, stormy tomorrow
  • March, Expertise and passion
  • February, Soaring in southern Colorado
  • January, It all starts with reputation



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  • October, CU labs: a magnificent microcosm
  • September, Is college worth it?
  • August, A lasting legacy and a record set
  • July, Getting there from here
  • June, Serving those who served
  • May, Indelible impact
  • April, Bruce on Bruce
  • March, Perception and reality
  • February,Leading leaders


  • December, We're most proud of this CU uniform
  • November, From python hearts to Tebow's cleats
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  • September, How to succeed at college and save $20,000
  • August, Reputation drives results
  • July, Teaching an old president new tricks
  • June, A message from the president
  • April, CU announces $1.5 billion Creating Futures campaign
  • February