Mason proposes $300 tuition increase and 3% fee increase for the upcoming academic year


George Mason University is recommending a $300 tuition increase for the 2023-24 academic year, but the in-state undergraduate tuition increase will be eliminated pending Virginia General Assembly approval of the university’s broader funding requests in the pending state budget.

About one-third of the proposed tuition increase would fund additional financial aid for Mason students. The increase would also help offset escalating operational expenses. Contractual costs for janitorial services, utilities, dining, landscaping, construction and other services are increasing by 4% to 13% for 2023-24, said Deb Dickenson, executive vice president for finance and administration.

Dickenson presented the budget proposal Tuesday, April 4, at a Board of Visitors public comment session, livestreamed on GMU-TV from Merten Hall.

The university also is recommending a 3% increase ($111) in mandatory student fees to help fund student activities, health services, transportation, and other student services.

The BOV is expected to vote on the budget proposal May 4. The Virginia General Assembly has not yet approved a state budget.

The largest and most diverse public university in the state, Mason has the fifth-lowest tuition of the state’s six doctoral universities and receives the least state financial support per student among those universities. Mason has increased tuition twice in four years, though the 2022-23 academic year increase was credited  for in-state undergraduate students.

Mason’s portion of student financial aid has increased from 10% in 2013 to 26% in 2023, almost quadrupling as a dollar amount during that time. Sixty-five percent of Mason students receive some form of financial aid.

Dickenson noted many statistics that quantify how Mason serves the region and state and meets higher education objectives set forth by commonwealth leaders—a 90% admission rate, a 70% six-year graduation rate, an undergraduate population that is 24% first generation, with 40% of undergraduates in STEM fields. Also, 66% of Mason undergraduates settle in Virginia. Applications for fall are up 11% compared with last year.

“What we’re providing at Mason is an accessible university that is highly affordable, with this incredible growth in our degrees and programs,” Dickenson said. “That’s what makes us so unique and such an asset for the commonwealth and for our students.

“In all of our achievements, we are meeting all of the [the state’s] goals for higher education with growth in degrees, enrollment, and graduate success. Those are very important impacts on our community, Virginia economy, and our students, and also our faculty and staff.”

In addition to financial aid, the proposed tuition increase would fund new academic programs and student services, and programs to improve retention and graduation through coaching and advising resources, mental health services, career service support, and other areas.

Two students at the meeting offered comments on tuition. No members of the university community submitted written comments related to the tuition and student fee proposals, first discussed at the Feb. 23 BOV meeting and then at a student tuition town hall March 21.

“Mason is providing a high-quality education and student experience to more Virginia residents at a lower price point, with fewer overall resources than our Virginia peers,” said René Stewart O’Neal, vice president for strategic budgeting and planning, during her part of the April 4 presentation to the BOV.

“We’re a great value, but it’s increasingly challenging to leverage our resources to support our institutional priorities. A tuition increase is necessary for us to have the resources we need to cover our core mission.”