University Catalog 2014-2015

University of Colorado Boulder

General Information

CU-Boulder Old Main, Flatirons in background

University of Colorado History

At its first session in 1861, Colorado’s territorial legislature passed an act providing for a university in Boulder. Between 1861 and 1876, Boulder citizens donated land south of town and made gifts from $15 to $1,000 to match the $15,000 the state legislature appropriated for the university’s construction. In 1875, Colorado citizens laid the cornerstone for the university’s first building, Old Main, and officially founded CU in 1876, the same year Colorado joined the union. The university opened its doors the following year with 44 students, a president, and one instructor.

Today, the University of Colorado is a four-campus system that includes the University of Colorado Boulder, the University of Colorado Colorado Springs, the University of Colorado Denver, and the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. The campuses have a combined enrollment of about 60,000 students. To meet the needs of its students, the university system offers an extensive number of undergraduate, graduate, and professional degree programs, as well as opportunities to study abroad, engage in public service, and conduct research.

CU received sponsored program awards that include funding from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and NASA. Sponsored research within the university system represents annual awards totaling more than $813 million. Federal agencies are the principal sources of these funds for research and training contracts and grants, but the state of Colorado also provides appropriations for university operations, teaching, and research activities. CU also relies on revenues from tuition and fees, contracts and grants, investments and interest income, health services, and the generous support of private foundations and donors.

An elected nine-member Board of Regents governs CU and is charged by the state constitution with the general supervision of the university and the exclusive control and direction of all its funds and appropriations, unless otherwise provided by law. The board conducts its business at regular meetings open to the public and through committees. The president is the chief administrative officer and is responsible for providing leadership to the university.

For more information about the CU Board of Regents, go to; to learn more about the CU system, visit


The Boulder Campus

Statutory Mission

CU-Boulder’s vision is grounded in its statutory mission as a national public research university. In Colorado statute, the university is defined as the “comprehensive graduate research university with selective admissions standards . . . offer(ing) a comprehensive array of undergraduate, master, and doctoral degree programs” of what is now designated the University of Colorado System.

CU-Boulder recognizes the exceptional opportunities associated with its role as a research university, and values the unique strength and character research achievements bring to undergraduate education. It is keenly aware of its responsibility for educating the next generation of citizens and leaders, and for fostering the spirit of discovery through research. Indeed, CU-Boulder believes that its students, both graduate and undergraduate, benefit from the comprehensive mix of programs and research excellence that characterize a flagship university. Thus, CU-Boulder’s statutory mission is relevant today and will remain relevant tomorrow.

Since 2007, CU-Boulder’s strategic plan, Flagship 2030 (, has been guiding near-term actions and investments that will sustain CU’s quality and competitiveness and, through visionary “flagship initiatives,” will transform the university within the next quarter-century.

General Information about CU-Boulder

As a comprehensive university, CU-Boulder is committed to the liberal education of students via a broad curriculum ranging from the baccalaureate through the postdoctoral levels. 

With an enrollment of more than 30,000 students, the University of Colorado Boulder is the largest campus in the four-campus system. The student population comes from every state in the nation and from more than 95 foreign countries. Many different ethnic, religious, academic, and social backgrounds are represented, fostering the development of a multicultural academic community that enriches each student’s educational experience.

On the Boulder campus, the chancellor is the chief academic and administrative officer and is responsible for conducting campus affairs in accordance with the policies of the Regents, and overseeing the Athletic Department. Faculty participate in campus governance through the Faculty Senate and the Faculty Assembly. Students participate through the University of Colorado Student Government (CUSG) and the United Government of Graduate Students (UGGS).

CU-Boulder has over 1,100 tenure and tenure track faculty, with more than 98 percent holding doctorates or appropriate terminal degrees. The faculty includes nationally and internationally recognized scholars with many academic honors and awards, including several CU-Boulder research faculty from the National Snow and Ice Data Center who shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President Al Gore for their contributions to the international report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; John Hall, winner of the 2005 Nobel Prize in physics; Carl Wieman and Eric Cornell, winners of the 2001 Nobel Prize in physics; Tom Cech, winner of the 1989 Nobel Prize in chemistry; and David Wineland, winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize in physics. Eight faculty have received MacArthur Fellowships, the so-called “genius grant.” Twenty-five active or retired faculty are members of the National Academy of Sciences; 23 are included in the membership of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; 17 are members of the National Academy of Engineering; and six are members of the National Academy of Education. Most faculty members, including full professors, teach both undergraduate and graduate classes. Faculty members incorporate their research and creative activities directly into instructional programs.

Research conducted at CU-Boulder is supplemented by research institutes devoted both to the advancement of knowledge in particular areas and to graduate training. Many of these institutes have developed international reputations. 

To enhance its research capabilities and to provide collaborative opportunities with government and business, CU-Boulder developed a 200-acre research park east of the main campus. The park provides expanded room for research institutes and centers that work closely with university researchers.

The educational environment of a research university is characterized by a broad range of experiences in many different settings. While the classroom is the location for most instructional activities, laboratories, seminars, and field work also are important features of the undergraduate and graduate experience. Some programs encourage off-campus internships and training; study abroad programs also have gained popularity. For students whose interests cross traditional disciplinary lines, a number of interdisciplinary programs are available. 

The Campus Setting

CU-Boulder is located at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, at an altitude of 5,400 feet. The Flatirons geologic formation is visible from nearly everywhere on campus. The climate is temperate, with generally pleasant days and cool evenings. On average, Boulder enjoys about 340 sunny or partly sunny days each year. The main campus covers 600 acres and includes about 200 buildings constructed of rough-cut Colorado sandstone with red tile roofs. The rural Italian (or Tuscan vernacular) architectural style evolved from a master plan developed by Philadelphia architect Charles Klauder in 1919. The Norlin Quadrangle, including the original Old Main building, is listed in the State and National Register of Historic Places. The campus has been noted as one of the most aesthetically pleasing in the country.

Boulder County encompasses five ecological zones, from 5,000 feet above sea level (plains grassland) to 14,000 feet (alpine tundra). Downtown Boulder is only 20 miles from the Continental Divide and boasts some of the most spectacular scenery in the United States. The city of Boulder, population 99,000, is committed to preserving its beautiful natural environment and is surrounded by 26,000 acres of open space. 

Denver, the state’s capital city, is 30 miles from Boulder. Denver offers the attractions and resources of a large metropolitan area and is accessible from Boulder by traveling on U.S. 36, also known as the Denver-Boulder Turnpike. Denver’s international airport is served by most major carriers and is located approximately 60 minutes southeast of Boulder. Boulder and the Denver International Airport are connected by a public transportation system.

Undergraduate Enrollment and Graduation Rates

CU-Boulder’s fall 2013 entering freshman class numbered 5,844. Of these, 46 percent were females, 55 percent residents of Colorado, and 23 percent members of minority groups (African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans). Sixty-nine percent enrolled in the College of Arts and Sciences, 12 percent in the Leeds School of Business, 14 percent in the College of Engineering and Applied Science, and 4 percent, combined, enrolled in the Program in Environmental Design, Journalism and Mass Communication Program,  and the College of Music. About 10 percent of freshmen entering CU-Boulder transfer to another college or school within the university before they graduate.

Of the freshmen entering in summer or fall 2007 who enrolled full time, 42 percent graduated within four years; 61 percent graduated within five years; and 65 percent graduated within six years. Of the students who entered in fall 2012, 82 percent returned for their second fall semester. 

CU-Boulder Academic Programs

The Boulder campus offers more than 3,600 different courses in approximately 150 fields of study. These courses represent a full range of disciplines in the humanities, the social sciences, the physical and biological sciences, the fine and performing arts, and the professions. CU-Boulder is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and a member of the North Central Association (; 800-626-7440 or 312-263-0456). (See individual colleges and schools for additional accreditation information.)

For information on the content of academic programs and official degree designations, refer to the appropriate catalog sections. Additional graduate and professional programs are located on other campuses of the university.

Colorado Springs Campus

The University of Colorado Colorado Springs, located on Austin Bluffs Parkway in Colorado Springs, is one of the fastest growing universities in the nation. The university offers 37 bachelor’s, 19 master’s, and five doctoral degrees. The campus enrolls about over 10,000 students annually. Schools and colleges on this campus include:

  • College of Business and Administration
  • College of Education
  • College of Engineering and Applied Science
  • Graduate School 
  • College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences
  • Beth-El College of Nursing and Health Sciences
  • School of Public Affairs

University of Colorado Denver

The University of Colorado Denver offers comprehensive programs for undergraduate, graduate, and health sciences students on the Denver Campus and on the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora. Students study in 130 degree programs across 13 schools and colleges.

The university awards more than 4,000 degrees each year and confers more graduate degrees than any other institution in the state. More than $434 million in sponsored research awards came to University of Colorado Denver in 2013–14.

Denver Campus

Near the heart of downtown, the campus is conveniently located on the Auraria Campus with easy access to Denver’s commercial and governmental hubs. Schools and colleges on this campus include:

  • College of Architecture and Planning
  • College of Arts & Media
  • Business School
  • School of Education & Human Development
  • College of Engineering and Applied Science
  • College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
  • School of Public Affairs

Anschutz Medical Campus

The Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora delivers a broad network of health care programs. In addition to University of Colorado Hospital, a number of renowned institutes are affiliated with the campus. The Anschutz Medical Campus presents state-of-the-art educational and research facilities with an adjoining biomedical park. Schools and colleges on this campus include:

  • School of Dental Medicine
  • School of Medicine
  • College of Nursing
  • School of Pharmacy
  • Colorado School of Public Health
  • Graduate School