Students had the opportunity to ask the administration about tuition changes and find out where their money is going.
BY TAYLOR RAMIREZ, OPINION EDITOR
Tuition increasing? Scholarships? Mason underfunded? On Friday, Nov. 4, Student Government hosted a tuition town hall where faculty answered a variety of questions from students.
The event hosted a panel featuring the Vice President of Enrollment Management, David Burge, the Interim Senior Vice President for Administration and Finance, Deb Dickinson, and the Vice President of University Life, Rose Pascarell.
Topics of the day included increased funding and support for the Stay Mason Emergency Fund, the upcoming tuition credit being given to undergraduate in-state students, funding for mental health programs, and the funding gap between Mason and other prominent institutions in Virginia.
Burge, Dickinson and Pascarell began by answering questions from students and explaining the three percent tuition credit that will soon be issued back to in-state, undergraduate students.
At the end of last school year, a three percent tuition increase was approved. However, over the summer new state leadership in Virginia requested that universities keep tuition costs for in-state students as low as possible. This tuition credit will now be given back to students to essentially replace the three percent tuition increase that was approved in May.
When asked what their thoughts on this tuition credit were, in-state students senior Ja’Corie Kinsey and freshman Thalia Edwards agreed that they felt the rate of in-state tuition was fair. Edwards is grateful for the tuition credit and says, “I think that this credit is much needed because my family can barely afford to keep me on campus and anything to lessen that cost would be helpful.”
Kinsey agreed but says that out-of-state and graduate students often give up more to leave their homes and study at Mason for a “more in-depth education” and therefore should also be recipients of this refund. Kinsey said he finds it “highly unethical” for the university to raise tuition even more, for certain groups of people and not others.
Out-of-state student senior Ainsley Fox also disagrees with the decision to only give tuition credit or assistance to in-state undergraduate students.
“From the perspective of an out-of-state student, we make up a huge portion of the student body and we work just as hard. Out-of-state tuition is already so much more expensive than in-state tuition so I think Mason should try to make changes that would help all students, especially the ones who are paying more to begin with.”
The panelists then presented a series of slides that focused both on the tuition credit and the funding disparities between George Mason and other prominent schools in Virginia such as the University of Virginia, Old Dominion University, William & Mary, Virginia Tech and VCU.
When compared to these five universities, Mason has the second lowest in-state tuition and the lowest level of support from the state of Virginia. In addition, per in-state student, Mason is nearly $5,000 below the mean of other universities in the state. These differences add up to a roughly $58 million funding shortfall in the fiscal year 2022.
One student asked the panelists, “Why is Mason putting the pressure on students by raising tuition instead of putting the pressure on state leadership in Richmond to increase our funding?” The panelists’ response was that the long-term goal is not to have to place any burden on students once state funding for Mason has increased.
Members of Student Government, including Student Body President Sophia Nguyen, attended the town hall and spoke about how students can impact this issue through Mason Lobbies.
The panelists and student government encourage students to get involved with Mason Lobbies and student government, travel to Richmond, and speak directly to elected officials about this disparity. Pascarell said that having Mason students in Richmond advocating for funding makes a “huge difference” to the elected officials voting on it.
Burge encouraged Virginia students to ask their elected officials, “Why should a student at any of these other schools matter more to the state than students at George Mason? Our students deserve the same resources and attention that the rest of Virginia university students are already receiving.”