Merten Discusses Mason’s Current Fiscal Challenges

Posted: January 31, 2002 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Daniel Walsch

President Alan Merten and other top administrators presented good news and bad news regarding the current budget situation to the university community yesterday at open forums in Arlington, Prince William, and Fairfax. The good news is that “George Mason’s vital signs are healthy, the institution will weather the budget storm, and we will not lose our fundamental momentum,” Merten said. But the bad news is that given the prospect of serious budget cuts over the next few fiscal years, “these cuts will be especially difficult for institutions like George Mason that are running lean and have already been identified by the Joint Legislative Committee as being severely underfunded.”

Presently, Merten reported, approximately $10 million in cuts have already been recommended for the university. An additional $3.3 million in further cuts are anticipated. At the same time, Gov. Mark Warner has proposed that the universities in Virginia be given the green light to raise tuition by as much as 5 percent. Merten said this proposal, if approved by the General Assembly, would not be enough to adequately address George Mason’s budgetary needs.

Merten advocates that universities be given the freedom to set their own tuition without any cap or limit. If this happens George Mason could probably raise tuition by as much as 10 percent, while also considering the impact that would have on students.

“We will not grow unless we are paid to grow,” Merten said at yesterday’s budget forum on the Fairfax Campus. “Our message is we want to grow, but we need additional capital and operational dollars in order to do so.”

In the face of the number crunching that is currently going on in Richmond, projections are that an additional 40,000 students will be knocking on the doors of Virginia’s two- and four-year colleges over the next 10 years. George Mason has gone on record saying it would and could admit 10,100 of them if, Merten emphasized, “we are given the proper financial support.”

Merten, along with Provost Peter Stearns and Senior Vice President Maurice Scherrens, asked the university community to offer suggestions on ways George Mason can better deal with the current budget situation. They also pledged to keep the community up-to-date on these discussions.

Write to at