George Mason University

News at Mason

In town hall meeting, Wu, Davis say Mason is 'charging ahead' despite obstacles

February 15, 2017   /   by Damian Cristodero

In describing George Mason University’s mission to provide students an accessible and affordable education while facing continued cuts in state funding, Senior Vice President of Administration and Finance J. J. Davis said the positives far outweigh the negatives.

“Mason continues to accomplish great things,” she said, “despite some headwinds.”

The university has ongoing initiatives to find new revenue streams, student enrollment is up and its biggest capital improvement programs are fully funded, Davis said at a Feb. 14 Town Hall Budget Meeting.

“I’ve been here four years now working at this institution and I’m continually amazed at how we find ways to come together,” she said. “Whatever curve ball or challenge that’s thrown at us, we work collaboratively and effectively as a Mason team to develop solutions.”

The meeting was held in Merten Hall on the Fairfax Campus with videoconferencing available at the Arlington, SciTech and Loudoun campuses.

“We are charging ahead,” said Provost and Executive Vice President S. David Wu, who went on to discuss several high-profile university initiatives.

Those included:

  • The redesign of the student experience, which Wu said “will really take the students’ point of view in delivering our services.”
  • The Online Virginia Network, a collaborative effort in which state universities will offer online learning to adults who started but did not finish their college degrees.
  • Mason Impact, which Wu said “will give real-life opportunities for students to find their passion outside and in addition to academic study.”
  • The IMIX at Fenwick, a conversion of the original Fenwick Library into an innovation space.

In response to a question about creating new markets and revenue, Wu pointed to new recruiting offices in Florida and Texas, the university’s partnerships with INTO and Wiley Educational Services, and its Learning Solutions program that targets professional and executive education. Enrollment of INTO students is up 28 percent, he said. Out-of-state domestic enrollment is up 10 percent.

As for financial challenges, such as the ongoing debate at the state level on funding reductions for fiscal year 2018, Davis acknowledged there is “lots of concern” about the long-term continued disinvestment. Virginia provided 28 percent of Mason’s operating budget this year, down from 67 percent in 1985.

That said, reconstruction of Robinson Hall, a $117 million project, is fully funded, as is the overhaul of Mason’s utility infrastructure. And the state’s proposed budget includes raises for faculty and staff, though how they will be funded is still a question, Davis said.

Updates at future town hall meetings will be provided as the budget situation is resolved, Davis and Wu said.

“We continue to grow our enrollment. We continue to support an affordable, accessible education for Virginia residents as well as residents outside the state,” Davis said. “We need to make sure the state recognizes that and tries to provide funding.”