Sonya Hudson, Managing Editor

President Alan Merten discussed the budget and student enrollment in his State of the University Address delivered on Wednesday, Oct. 14 in Dewberry Hall.

Virginia, like most states, is experiencing a revenue downfall, which also falls on higher education institutions.

“At Mason, the result is a reduction of $17.5 million or approximately 15 percent from our operating fund for this fiscal year,” said Merten. “This means in the past year and a half we have had over $45 million taken from our budget – money that will probably not be replaced. And while federal funds ease the pain this year and next, the cuts are still severe and the band aid is temporary.”

Merten explained how this budget cut will impact George Mason University. It means not filling research, staff and faculty positions that are currently available.

Non-personal spending for conferences, travel, equipment and training will be deferred and IT contracts will be reduced.

“Further, it is very likely that all state workers will be furloughed for one day over the next 10 months,” said Merten. “A final determination on this will be made sometime soon.”

Despite these financial difficulties and sacrifices of faculty and staff, Mason has not lost its pride or focus.
“Mason has consistently been among the lowest . . . funded doctoral institutions in Virginia,” said Merten. “Yet in our institution’s young history, one trait we have exhibited time after time is a determination to be a leader in what we do and in how we do it.”

Despite budget reductions, the university’s name continues to draw students to its doors. Student enrollment has increased since last year. Merten explains the break down of these numbers.

“Each year, our enrollment officials determine enrollment targets based upon institutional historical data for new students as well as retention rates for existing students,” said Merten. This time around we enrolled about 1,000 more undergraduate students and 500 more graduate students than targeted.”

This higher enrollment is from a larger freshman class, more transfer students, a greater retention rate and more graduate students. Merten explains the meaning of these higher numbers.

“To begin, it speaks to an increased recognition of the growing overall reputation of our institution,” said Merten. “The outreach efforts of our admissions and university relations teams are paying off in terms of enhancing our institution’s visibility and also promoting the high quality of our numerous academic programs and the outstanding scholars who teach them.”

Though the higher number of students speaks to the quality of education that Mason provides, it also means changes and challenges for all students, faculty and staff.

“The increased numbers also mean more people on our campuses, more cars in our lots, larger classes, more residential students and more students in need of our various services such as counseling, the health clinic, career services, the library, and the guidance of their advisors,” said Merten.

Merten expressed his appreciation to the Mason community as a whole. All faculty, staff and students are making necessary sacrifices as a result of the budget cuts and the president of this “up and coming” university values that.

“I recognize the extra burden this may place on many of you,” said Merten. “I appreciate what you are doing on the institution’s behalf.”

“In carrying out your responsibilities, you are serving the larger calling of Mason: to help meet the educational goals of students and, as a result, play a key role in producing future contributors to the betterment of our region and our world,” said Merten. “The value of what you do, as a collective body, cannot be understated.”