President Gregory Washington had a message for the Board of Visitors on Thursday: George Mason University in many measurements is performing like “a legitimate Top 50 institution.”
Washington, a self-described data geek, said he has been poring over graduation data, research funding, and other key performance indicators that show how Virginia’s largest and most diverse research university stacks up against the national competition.
Using U.S. News & World Report data, Mason is outperforming the Top 50 universities in some key categories.
“The data says we are Top 50,” Washington said during his presidential report at the board meeting. “Our performance says we are.”
Mason produces more bachelor’s and master degree earners than most of the Tier 1 research institutions as selected by the Carnegie Classification, as well as most of the U.S. News & World Report Top 50 universities. Mason also produces more women and minority bachelor’s degree earners than most schools in those categories.
In addition, Mason has higher female graduate enrollment than any Top 50 school. And its growth of research and development expenditures is second in the country. That suggests Mason is poised to make gains in overall research funding in the coming years.
One area that Mason lags its peers is in faculty compensation. Washington said Mason tenure-track faculty salaries rank 105th among Tier 1 research institutions, at $102,000. That’s about $11,000 below the average salary. Washington said he will address that difference over the next two to three years.
Mason’s graduation rate of about 72 percent is below average among the Tier 1 universities but its acceptance rate is higher to fulfill the university’s mission of access and opportunity. Washington pointed out that in 1992 Mason had a graduation rate of 42%. Now twice that size, at 39,000 students, Mason’s graduation rate is 72%.
“That’s a big deal, and it’s totally contrary to what institutions, especially public institutions, will tell you they’re capable of,” Washington said. “Which is an amazing thing to see.
“It’s not the people you exclude. How do you take any individual that wants to pursue a degree and give them what they need while they’re on your campus so that they can graduate and be successful? We’ve done it.”
In the next 10 years, Mason is expected to grow by about 10,000 students, 400 faculty members and 150 staff, while possibly adding four new buildings, Washington said.
He also discussed the concept of the New Virginia Promise, a Mason pathway toward a degree or business for every Virginian who wants it. In that initiative under consideration, Mason will leverage community college pathways and its statewide network of Virginia Small Business Development Centers. Washington plans to visit all 33 SBDCs in the coming years.
“Our new mantra is Opportunity U for Opportunity You,” Washington said. “We will put a stake in every single county in the state of Virginia.”