Mason to Raise Tuition for Next Academic Year

Posted: May 7, 2009 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Daniel Walsch

At its final meeting of the year, Mason’s Board of Visitors (BOV) voted to raise tuition and fees for in-state undergraduate students by 6.8 percent or $512 for the 2009-10 academic year, which is considerably less than previously anticipated due to one-time funding from the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This funding will provide support for the next two academic years.

The BOV’s action follows similar decisions by many of Mason’s sister colleges and universities throughout the commonwealth. The average increase from those institutions reporting their figures thus far is approximately five percent. According to the American Council on Education, anticipated increases by public college and universities throughout the country are expected to be at least five to six percent.

According to the BOV, Mason’s tuition and fees increase is in part due to the need for the university to pay for the cost of operating new academic and student facilities that will open next academic year. Approximately 75 percent of the new funding is allocated for mandatory and unavoidable items, including $5.3 million to support new facilities and improvements in financial assistance. Mason is also increasing its student financial assistance in 2009-10 by $1.85 million.

At one time, the commonwealth provided 100 percent of the funds to operate new buildings; in recent budgets state support dropped to 50 percent; and now the state has opted to provide no support toward building operations. Mason is adding an unusual number of new academic facilities in the coming year, including the Engineering Building, the Recreation and Athletic Complex, and a major new academic building to house its visual arts program. The buildings were planned and constructed prior to the decision by the state not to provide operating funds.

Ernst Volgenau, rector of the BOV, says, “We take very seriously a decision to raise tuition and fees. State support has decreased, and we must maintain the quality of academic programs, facilities and scholarship.” Mason, he adds, continues to move forward in a number of key areas, including student financial assistance and capital projects.

“Since its beginning, George Mason University has been a significant factor in the growth and vitality of Northern Virginia. If this is to continue, then this action by the Board of Visitors is a necessary step in ensuring that the university has the funding it needs to continue offering courses and programs of the highest quality taught by outstanding scholars,” says BOV member Vincent Callahan, former member of the Virginia state legislature and chair of the House of Delegates Appropriations Committee.

Mason projects a modest student enrollment increase next year of 0.5 percent, and the university is experiencing a record number of applications for the coming fall. At present, Mason’s overall student enrollment is approximately 31,000.

In related actions, the BOV voted to

  • Raise tuition and fees for out-of-state undergraduate students by 6.8 percent

  • Raise tuition and fees for in-state graduate students by 9.8 percent

  • Raise tuition and fees for out-of-state graduate students by 7.3 percent

  • Raise tuition and fees for law school students by 9.7 percent for in-state and 7.1 for out-of-state students

These decisions come at a time when all of Virginia’s public institutions of higher learning face significant budget reductions due to a severe revenue shortfall within the commonwealth. At Mason, between the current academic year and next, the state has reduced its general fund support by approximately $21 million. These cuts continue a trend in Virginia in which the funding of public higher education has been shifting onto the student. As recently as 2001, the Commonwealth of Virginia was providing approximately 61 percent of the cost of delivering higher education. Today that number is 33 percent.

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