On May 2, George Mason University’s Board of Visitors approved a $1.25 billion budget for the 2019-20 academic year that includes a one-year tuition freeze for all in-state and out-of-state undergraduate students. The budget also increases financial aid, grows research and innovation, and raises salaries for faculty and staff.
The budget supports Mason’s mission of access, academic excellence and affordability. Even before the freeze, Mason charged in-state undergraduate students an average 40 percent less than the state’s three other top-tier research institutions, a difference of $3,603.
Mason is Virginia’s largest and most diverse public research university. The university enrolls more than 37,000 students and has driven 64 percent of the enrollment growth in Virginia over the past eight years.
“This budget, along with the tuition freeze, positions Mason as an even greater investment for our students and their families,” Mason President Ángel Cabrera said. “Our modest cost in comparison to our peers, extraordinarily low student loan default rates, and high employment and career outcomes are why Mason is frequently cited as one of the best values in higher education. I also want to recognize the effort of the Virginia General Assembly, which approved a tuition moderation investment of $6.5 million to help us freeze tuition this year.”
The 2019-20 budget also calls for a $2.9 million increase in financial aid from the Commonwealth of Virginia for a total of $30.8 million.
Some costs will go up for 2019-20. Graduate student tuition will rise 3.5 percent, and student fees will rise 3 percent, or $102 per academic year. Room and board will increase by an average of 2.1 percent.
The university also has adjusted its tuition cost model for students taking more than 15 credit hours. Previously, a 16th credit hour incurred no additional charge. It now will, although 72 percent of Mason students will not be affected because they take 15 or fewer credit hours. For those who are affected, additional institutional financial aid of $2.7 million will be available.
Cabrera and the Board of Visitors are committed to keeping in-state tuition below the median of the state’s other doctoral universities. Mason’s student loan default rate is well below national and state averages; Mason’s three-year default rate is 2.3 percent, compared with 7.1 percent nationally for four-year public universities.
“The Board of Visitors believes the 2019-20 budget addresses the university’s strategic priorities, builds on our momentum, and fortifies the future of a university that continues to grow in size and stature,” Mason Rector Tom Davis said. “An investment in the students, faculty and staff who make Mason one of the nation’s premier research universities is also an investment in a region and state whose economic impact is increasingly reliant on the talent that Mason attracts and produces.”
In response to the state’s Tech Talent Initiative, the budget also supports research and innovation, including a $125 million state investment toward a $250 million expansion of the Arlington Campus, coinciding with Amazon’s decision to build its new headquarters near Mason. The Arlington Campus will house the Institute for Digital InnovAtion (IDIA) and the state’s first dedicated School of Computing. Mason, already leading the state in graduates in computer science and related fields, projects to have 10,000 undergraduates and 5,000 graduate students in those fields by 2024.
Faculty and staff salary raises, funded partially by the state, will assist Mason’s retention and recruiting efforts. Faculty will receive a 3 percent raise and may be eligible for an additional 1 percent merit raise. Staff will receive a 2.75 percent raise and may be eligible for an additional 2.25 percent merit raise. Graduate assistant compensation also will increase. Mason employees’ health insurance premiums will stay the same and a “healthcare holiday” period in October will reduce employees’ healthcare bill.
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