George Mason University Senior Vice President Maurice Scherrens and Provost for Academic Affairs Peter Stearns co-hosted a budget forum Friday in which they announced they were submitting a budget for 2011–12 to the Board of Visitors that calls for a 5.7 percent in-state tuition increase.
The budget also outlines a 5 percent tuition increase for out-of-state students. In-state students are looking at a $432 increase in tuition, a $150 increase in fees and a $430 increase in room and board. Out-of-state students will face a $1,146 increase in tuition, a $150 increase in fees and a $430 increase in room and board if the Board of Visitors accepts this budget at its meeting Wednesday.
Mason’s proposed 5.7 percent increase is in the middle of the pack, with University of Virginia and Virginia Tech among the schools with a higher percentage increase. William & Mary and James Madison University are two schools with a smaller increase.
Changes in the state budget have forced Mason officials to make difficult decisions — while some faculty and staff members haven’t had pay raises in years, the amount of money the university receives from the state per student has steadily decreased since 2009.
“If we simply transmitted our budget cuts we were suffering [onto] students, the increase would be in the 10- to 12-percent range,” Stearns said. “Having said that, we have faculty and staff who haven’t received a salary increase in four years. It’s [faculty and staff going four years without a pay raise] a serious issue in humane treatment of people and frankly in keeping our most talented folks here.”
The budget calls for compensation improvements to employees in addition to $1.5 million to increase undergraduate and graduate financial aid. The state will also contribute $3.5 million for financial aid, which should cover 25 to 30 percent of the overall cost facing students, Scherrens said.
Scherrens said increasing pay for faculty and staff who haven’t had a raise in years is a high priority of the university and of the Board of Visitors.
Scherrens said it costs $15,000 to educate a student over the course of a school year.
“One of the real reasons that we’re struggling is the paradigm shift in terms of whose paying for higher education,” Scherrens said. “Three or four years ago, the state was giving us $137 million per year. What we’re looking at in fiscal year 2012 is $35 million less than that.”
Scherrens said this is the reality across the country and that he hopes the decreases flatline. The state general fund once gave as much as $7,267 per student in 2008, but the number has since declined to $4,797 for 2012.
Scherrens spent part of the forum discussing how Mason stacks up against other Virginia universities in terms of money received from the state. The numbers show that Mason has at times received as much as 80 percent of what is received by the other doctoral schools, but the number is typically between 75 and 80 percent.
“Old Dominion is a great school,” Scherrens said, “but being in their company on this is not where we want to be. As ODU knows and GMU has learned, and you have learned, we’re the last ones at the trough. There has never been the willpower or the interest in reducing the funding at the other schools to try to level the playing field a little bit.”
The budget allocates $500,000 for an increase in development.
“We’re in what’s called the ‘quiet phase’ of the major money-raising effort,” Stearns said. “Any time a university does a capital campaign, it has to expand staff. The rule of thumb is that you spend 20 cents to get $1. This is our 20 cents.”
Some of the other budget priorities are as follows — $850,000 for library materials, $3 million for enhancement and expansion of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, $4.15 million for operating and maintenance expenses for new buildings, $850,000 CISCO technology initiative and $4.10 million new enrollment growth funding.
“These items have been institutional priorities and represent major drivers of the estimated $22 million E&G [Education and General] budget increase,” according to the PowerPoint that was used at the forum.