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George Mason U. to give tuition credit, joining other Va. colleges

The credit will offset a tuition increase that had been put in place for in-state undergraduates

George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

George Mason University leaders agreed on Thursday to ease tuition costs this year, approving a credit for in-state undergraduate students that offsets the 3 percent increase that went into place this fall.

The pivot came amid strong messages from Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) to public universities to hold college tuition steady this year to ease the impact of inflation on Virginia families. Most schools backed off plans to increase costs.

George Mason leaders said they had explained the financial pressures that had prompted the university’s tuition increase, and had been assured by state leaders that they would work on ways to address systemic issues.

“I take that as a big win,” Gregory Washington, the university’s president, told the George Mason board of visitors.

In a written statement, Washington also said the university has always championed the ideal of holding tuition for students as low as possible.

On Thursday, the board approved the credit, equivalent to $285 for full-time undergraduates. It will effectively bring in-state undergraduate tuition levels to $9,510 for this year.

The decision to offer a credit creates an approximately $5.8 million shortfall for this fiscal year.

“This year’s original increase was the result of a careful effort to strike a balance between maintaining a quality experience for students while limiting the economic impact on Virginia families,” Horace Blackman, rector of the board of visitors, said in a written statement Thursday. “Mason will now work to rebalance operations based on this new cut, with our commitment to minimize negative impacts to the community.”

Earlier this month, the University of Virginia approved a one-time credit in the amount of a tuition increase that went into effect this fall, leaving George Mason as the only public university with increased tuition still in place.

U-Va. expected to heed Youngkin’s plea for flat tuition with rebate

George Mason’s board met in June to consider the governor’s request that the 3 percent increase for in-state undergraduates for the 2022-23 academic year be rolled back, and appointed a committee to study the issue.

In a statement at that time, the board wrote that it supported the governor’s intent to help families combat inflation. But it noted that the school receives less funding than all but one of Virginia’s other five doctoral institutions, despite being the largest public research university in the state and operating in the most expensive and competitive labor market in Virginia. Inflation was increasing operating expenses, the board wrote, and the inability to pay competitive wages was resulting in an ongoing loss of talent.

On Thursday, Youngkin praised the steps taken by the state’s public college and university boards to ease “the burden on Virginia’s families and students during a time of high inflation and cost of living.” The schools collectively serve more than a quarter-million students.

“Early on in my administration, I encouraged all colleges and universities to take on this challenge,” Youngkin said in a statement, “and I am pleased that now all of Virginia’s students will have the opportunity to pursue their higher education at every public college, university, and community college in the Commonwealth free from tuition hike fears.”

More on local education

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K-12 classrooms: The Montgomery County school system is revisiting safety training after a report of a student with a gun led to a campus lockdown. New safety protocols also are in the works in D.C. after a bus driver crashed a bus and was charged with a DUI. A settlement in a public records lawsuit reveals some of the emails submitted to Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s education tip line.

On campus: The University of Maryland has pledged to expand aid for in-state students who have significant financial need. What the twists, turns and drops of roller coasters are teaching Johns Hopkins University students about engineering.