The Virginia General Assembly meets annually, beginning the second Wednesday of January each year. The sessions alternate between long (60 days) and short (45 days) based on the biennial budget cycle. “Long sessions” correspond with the introduction of the Governor’s budget and take place in even calendar years (i.e 2018, 2020), whereas “short sessions” take place in odd numbered years (i.e. 2019, 2021).
Well in advance of the annual session, the Government Relations Council establishes official legislative and budget priorities for the University, the primary purpose for which is to ensure a well-planned and strategic approach to securing approval of legislative objectives and critical funding needs for the University. Such planning will enable the university to dedicate an appropriate balance of staff resources to navigate through the legislative and agency processes.
The process and timeline by which priorities are established is detailed here.
Mason's 2022 Legislative Priorities include support for the following initiatives and capital requests:
Financial Aid: Provide Affordable Access for All Students
The Commonwealth was very supportive of additional financial aid for Mason students during the 2021 Regular and Special Sessions. Even with the recent increase, Mason lags in the necessary funding to address the unmet need goals of the Commonwealth for Mason students. The challenge is made more difficult when considering that as Mason’s enrollments have increased, the number of students applying and qualifying for financial aid have increased -- 24 percent of Mason undergraduate students are first generation and 29 percent are eligible for federal need-based Pell Grants. During the 2022 legislative session, Mason will seek $7.85M in the first year and $8.25M in the second year for undergraduate financial aid.
Compensation: Support Salary Compensation Increases
George Mason University is grateful for the support of the Governor and the General Assembly for additional compensation appropriated for faculty and staff in FY22. Regular salary increases and competitive compensation are critical for Mason to retain and recruit talented faculty and staff. The university continues to address the challenges of being located in one of the highest cost of living regions in the United States. Mason also must continually contend with the large number of nationally ranked universities and private sector research organizations in Maryland and Washington, D.C. who are hiring away Mason faculty and staff. Mason will work with the Administration and the General Assembly to seek a minimum increase of three percent for the FY23 compensation adjustment. An increase of one percent has a $5M impact on the general fund (for faculty and staff). Mason’s matching share for every one percent of teaching faculty increase equals $1.35M.
Disparity Funding: Access, Student Success and Enrollment Growth
The university has been and continues to be committed to the Commonwealth’s higher education goals for enrollment growth, two-year transfers, and educational program development to support economic growth. Over the past decade, Mason has been a major contributor to the Commonwealth’s growth of in-state enrollment. The current enrollment is more than 39,000 students -- which includes Mason’s largest freshman class in 2021-22 of more than 4,000 students. In addition, Mason continues to welcome the largest transfer student body from two-year institutions numbering more than 3,000 students per year. The Governor and General Assembly have made incremental increases in the base budget for Mason (and ODU) in recent years, but Mason still lags in the average funding level per in-state undergraduate student appropriation as compared to the other Virginia doctoral institutions. Mason will be seeking an additional $9.1M each year in the upcoming biennial budget.
George Mason University has experienced significant enrollment growth over the past ten years. In comparison, Mason’s enrollment has grown during this period by more than two times the total student enrollment at the University of Richmond. Mason has consistently been recognized by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) for effective utilization of classroom and laboratory space. With this enrollment growth, Mason is in critical need of additional academic space and improvements to its technology infrastructure. The top three projects on the current capital outlay six-year plan include:
- Student Innovation Factory Building: This 60,000 square foot building will be a one-story open warehouse space designed to accommodate capstone coursework for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) students. The learn-by-doing pedagogies associated with STEM programs require increased need for dedicated, secure, weatherproof project space to store equipment and works in progress. Mason is requesting $30M in the 2022 session.
- Improve Telecommunications Infrastructure (Phase 3): This capital outlay project will be the culmination of a multi-phased upgrade to the telecommunications infrastructure across the University’s 119 buildings on all campuses. This project is in response to the student enrollment growth and outdated equipment. Mason is seeking $14.25M in general funds and $9.75M in 9(D) bonds in the 2022 session
- Interdisciplinary Science & Engineering Building: Due in large part to enrollment growth and aging facilities, Mason is seeking approval for a 150,000 square foot interdisciplinary science and engineering building on the Fairfax Campus. Currently, Mason exceeds specialized instructional spaces at twice the recommended SCHEV standards for utilization. This space will address some of the past and anticipated enrollment growth needs at Mason as well as respond to strategic initiatives such as the Commonwealth’s Tech Talent Investment Program (TTIP). This five to seven story building will require approximately $150M in bond authorization.
- George Mason University 50th Anniversary Commending Resolution: George Mason University will celebrate its 50th anniversary on April 7, 2022. As part of the celebration, Mason will seek a commending resolution from the House of Delegates and the Senate of Virginia during the 2022 legislative session.