The Board of Visitors has passed a tuition increase that will go into effect this summer. Tuition for summer 2011 will increase by 6 percent for out-of-state students and 7 percent for in-state students.

This decision was due to the fact that George Mason University will be losing $20 million in federal stimulus funds, a situation which it had been anticipating since last August. Additional money will be lost through state budget cuts, bringing Mason’s total losses to over $30 million. According to the 2010–11 budgets, tuition made up 26 percent of the university’s total revenue.

The increase this summer most likely signals a rise in tuition for the fall. While the budget including tuition for the fall semester will not be finalized until May 14, Senior Vice President Maurice Scherrens estimates tuition will rise by 10 to 11 percent. A 4.4 percent room and board rate increase has been finalized.

The cut in state and federal funding is an issue that will continue to affect many Virginia schools. In addition to budget cuts that take money away from university operating costs, the state has also been cutting funds for Pell Grants, which are federal grants directed at low-income students.

Through the General Fund, Virginia has traditionally provided financial compensation per student for as much as $7,200. However, this number has been steadily declining and fell to approximately $5,500 in the 2011 fiscal year, an 8.3 percent decline from 2010).

In response to rising tuition, the university is allocating funds for both merit- and need-based scholarships. Chief of Staff Tom Hennessey noted that one of the first places assistance goes is to students who need the most financial help, saying that the school tries to keep “students with greatest need held harmless.”

Hennessey also said that the university is trying to plan ahead, keeping in mind state and federal budget cuts and assuring that their efforts provide a “long-range plan to keep student tuition down.”Scherrens echoed this sentiment saying, “We will continue to do everything possible to keep the tuition and fee increases as low as we can, but I expect that you will see a number of substantially higher tuition increases at other colleges throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia.” It is his hope that tuition in the future will not rise higher than where it stands after this fall.

Hennessey does not expect enrollment to be affected by the tuition increase. In light of the economic challenges, he stressed the idea of efficiency and “doing more with less.” According to Hennessey, it will “be a challenge for the state to provide the same level of education as before.”

Scherrens is cautiously optimistic about the future. “We are doing everything we can to provide high-quality instruction, while containing costs, being increasingly efficient and effective and being seen as a good return on investment by our students. Our goal is to exceed your expectations, but these are challenging times when state funding is lessening.”