GMU President: Let Them Eat Cake

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    Is in-state tuition in Virginia too low?

    Alan Merten, president of George Mason University, teetered down the steps of his ivory tower and told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that “in Virginia, tuition is still very inexpensive” while pleading for the power to raise tuition without interference from the stingy likes of the General Assembly. It would comfort us as we stare into the cavernous emptiness in our wallets if that was remotely true, but Virginians actually pay the 15th highest in-state tuition, well above the national average.

    When classes begin next Monday, we the students of GMU, the 143rd Best University in America will shell out a “very inexpensive” $8,684 a year in tuition and fees. 50% of us will walk across the stage at graduation with a diploma in hand and $19,528 in debt, a burden that has risen 25% since 1997.

    I shouldn’t be so hard on our esteemed president because most of this is not his fault. He and the George Mason University Board of Visitors are caught in a bind. Feckless legislators have shifted the burden pf funding our Commonwealth’s higher education from state coffers to universities themselves by cutting funding to the bone, but threaten to vote down funding if the universities raise tuition to cover for the loss. Legislators return home to their districts to whine about tuition increases while universities raise tuition anyway. Disingenuous legislators propose limiting out-of-state students who help subsidize the in-state students who the state ought to be paying for.

    There may be many solutions to the spiraling cost of higher education, but insisting that costs in Virginia are still fairly low is neither true nor helpful.