President Merten Outlines Universities’ Legislative Priorities

Posted: December 5, 2003 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Robin Herron

Public universities in the Commonwealth of Virginia are supporting five major priorities for consideration by legislators in the 2004 General Assembly that convenes Jan. 14, President Alan Merten told the Faculty Senate this week.

They are:

  • An increase in student financial aid. George Mason would like an additional $1.4 million.
  • An increase in faculty salaries. Merten said he would like to see George Mason salaries get up to at least the 60th percentile of those in its national peer group.
  • Tuition flexibility to achieve base budget adequacy. The universities are opposed to tuition caps.
  • Financial support for increased enrollment. For planning purposes, George Mason has developed a model that shows the cost for each additional student enrolled.
  • Operating and maintenance funds for new and renovated buildings.

Although not one of the top five priorities, the level of sponsored research is another major concern of research universities in Virginia, Merten added. More incentives from the state, in the form of an increase in indirect cost recoveries from an institution’s sponsored research, are sought. “We currently have about $650 million in sponsored research in the state, and we could easily get to the $1 billion level if there were incentives,” Merten said.

Merten also said that Gov. Mark Warner’s tax reform initiative is one way the state can capture funds to meet the needs of higher education. “We’ve made cuts, we’ve raised tuition, we’ve swept accounts clean,” he said. “We’ve maintained in such a way that it’s not maintainable. Unless we get some of these changes, it will be disastrous.”

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