BOV actions solidify university’s future

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With the Virginia General Assembly still finalizing the state budget, the George Mason University Board of Visitors has approved two budget scenarios for 2022-23 that reflect the slightly different proposals currently under consideration in Richmond.

Each of the Mason budgets approved May 5 includes a 3% tuition increase that in part will fund additional student financial aid and more competitive compensation for faculty and staff.

The approved Mason budgets call for no increase in Mandatory Student Fees and a $490 increase in room and board in response to increasing expenses at the university.

The tuition increase for undergraduate, graduate, and professional/law students raises in-state undergraduate tuition by $285 and out-of-state undergraduate tuition by $989. One-third of the increase, an estimated $5 million, will be reallocated to financial aid. About 65% of Mason undergraduates receive some form of aid.

Mason’s tuition increase is lower than that of its peer universities in Virginia, and Mason’s in-state undergraduate tuition in 2021-22 was the second lowest among the state’s six doctoral universities, despite Mason receiving the least per-student state financial support among those universities. 

Mason faculty and staff salaries continue to lag state peers. State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) salary data for 2019-20 found that Mason faculty, for example, ranked 19th out of 26 institutions for overall average salary.

The state covers about half of the university’s approved salary adjustments and Mason funds the other half through tuition revenues. 

The increase in room and board is in reaction to inflation, including increasing food costs and other factors. Room and board at Mason is about 7 to 15% lower than at other universities in the Washington, D.C., region, said Carol Kissal, senior vice president for administration and finance.

More information about the tuition and room and board adjustments is available in the May 5 meeting board materials. Mason held a public comment session on April 5 for members of the university community to participate in the budget discussion. At that time, the BOV also extended by two weeks the deadline for written submissions from the university community about the 2022-23 tuition proposal. The board received 21 written submissions, mostly from students.

The BOV members in attendance also voted to conditionally approve a name change for the College of Health and Human Services to the College of Public Health, and to extend the contract of Mason President Gregory Washington to June 30, 2027.

Changing the name of the College of Health and Human Services to the College of Public Health is conditional on two external approvals—one from an accrediting body, the Council on Education for Public Health, and the second from SCHEV.

CHHS Dean Germaine Buck Louis said the name change would reflect the college’s longstanding mission to improve public health. The College is in its final transition to becoming a College of Public Health.

The BOV also voted to extend Washington’s contract for two years through June 30, 2027.

Washington, who accepted the presidency in February 2020, before the pandemic, and began his presidency on July 1, 2020, had to delay some of his planned objectives to lead a successful COVID management plan at the university.

“I appreciate this strong vote of confidence from the board, people who have dedicated their expertise and energy to serving our students and George Mason University,” Washington said. “This extension provides assurances that I will have the runway to execute our vision for Mason, and I look forward to working with all stakeholders to achieve our goals.”

“What this means is stability for the next five years,” said Mason Rector Jimmy Hazel, who as vice rector co-chaired the search committee that recommended the hiring of Washington. “We’ve had to meet many challenges these last two years, but we’re ready to come out strong with a new vision. And we have the leadership to get us there.”