George Mason University Board of Visitors approves FY 2021-22 academic year with emphasis on student success, no undergraduate tuition increase


George Mason University’s Board of Visitors approved a $1.249 billion budget Thursday, May 6 that will keep undergraduate tuition flat, increase student aid by at least 10 percent, and make targeted investments in student services and staff and faculty support.

The budget also includes modest increases in student fees and graduate tuition, which will help make targeted investments in technology and graduate education, including increased stipends for graduate students and an increase in the number of post-doctoral fellowships awarded. The funds will also support enhanced graduate student support services, new graduate faculty, and investment in new graduate academic programs.

“This has been an extraordinary moment in Mason’s history and the board recognizes that many of our students have faced serious challenges over the last year,” said Mason Rector James W. Hazel. “This budget invests in Mason and our students, and helps position the university for the post-pandemic world.”

The university was able to keep undergraduate tuition unchanged after carefully managing spending and costs during the pandemic. This prudent financial stewardship, coupled with $52.2 million of Commonwealth and Federal covid stimulus relief funding and better-than-expected enrollment, meant that Mason did not have to use financial reserves to meet operating expenses, as was originally projected for FY21. The university was also able to maintain full employment.

Mason is Virginia’s largest and most diverse public research university. Yet it has historically been underfunded by the Commonwealth in relation to its Virginia peers. An increase in state funds of $31 million will help reduce that disparity and contribute directly to improving undergraduate academic and student support programs.

“Our focus continues to be on putting students first and providing a high-quality, affordable education,” President Gregory Washington said. “Mason remains a leader in the Commonwealth in delivering access to excellence.”

The board considered the rising demand for graduate and professional programs when including a modest $441 increase in graduate tuition as part of the budget. The added money allows Mason to expand enrollment to more graduate students and increase the amount of graduate stipends awarded, on average more than $800 for a full-time 9-month graduate assistantship. It also allows Mason to provide more post-doctoral fellowships, which are a direct driver of research.  

Mason is making targeted investments in graduate education to help graduate students achieve their personal and career goals by supporting advanced learning with more seminars, professional and career development, and fellowships for research and scholarly study.

A $105 increase in student fees, or $75 for full-time law students, will provide an additional $3.3 million in revenue that will go toward strengthening student support and success services, including additional mental health and well-being support, technology-enabled advising and coaching, and career planning. The fee will also support additional experiential learning and engagement opportunities. 

The budget will allow Mason to focus on key areas of promoting student success and wellbeing; expanding research; increasing diversity, equity and inclusive excellence; restoring infrastructure support; and strengthening faculty and staff compensation.

Earlier this year Mason achieved Tier 3 financial management status, which goes into effect July 1. This gives the university greater autonomy in financial operations, including capital projects, procurement, information technology, and human resources. Mason, which in 2022 will celebrate its 50th anniversary as an independent institution, joins five much older Virginia universities in achieving Tier 3 status.

Mason’s institutional commitment to anti-racism, diversity and inclusive excellence is a core value guiding investment decisions. Following the work of the president’s Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence Task Force, an Implementation Team will evaluate and assess the Task Force’s budget requests this summer. The team will recommend the highest impact initiatives to senior leadership for implementation.

Undergraduate tuition remains $9,510 for in-state students and $32,970 for out-of-state-students; room and board will increase $540 from $12,090 to $12,630.

Mason’s location in Northern Virginia makes it an attractive place to work, but pay has lagged behind comparable employers in the region. Virginia has not authorized pay increases for faculty and staff since 2019. With authorization for 5 percent increases from the state budget, Mason can work to attract and retain top talent.

About George Mason University

George Mason University is Virginia’s largest public research university. Located near Washington, D.C., Mason enrolls 39,000 students from 130 countries and all 50 states. Mason has grown rapidly over the past half-century and is recognized for its innovation and entrepreneurship, remarkable diversity, and commitment to accessibility. For more information visit