When meeting with state lawmakers, I am never bashful about rattling off some of the university’s achievements:
- Largest public university in the state
- One of the top 115 research institutions in the country
- No disparity in graduation rates among ethnic groups
- Largest share of community college transfers in the state
- Among the lowest student loan default rates in the country
- Responsible for 48 percent of state enrollment growth in the past decade (57 percent just last year)
- Top 25 school in operating efficiency, per a U.S. News & World Report ranking
Stats tell a powerful story about Mason. But no one tells that story than our students, who are, after all, the people behind the impressive numbers.
That’s why, every year, I look forward to Mason Day in Richmond, which will happen next Wednesday. A delegation of a few dozen Mason students, decked out in Green and Gold, descend on the General Assembly in Richmond to convey to legislators their needs as college students and Mason’s immense value to them and to the Commonwealth. The students remind the legislators, with energy and poise, just what kind of talent Mason attracts and produces and how we keep Northern Virginia and the state competitive with a highly qualified work force.
The students in many cases meet with their elected representative from their home district, enabling the lawmaker to better relate to the students’ need, whether additional investments financial aid, facilities or program support. The experience also provides a unique opportunity for students to grow as engaged citizens, better acquainted with the political process and more confident to work with others to tackle and resolve issues they care about.
This is a particularly important budget cycle for Mason. In his final budget, outgoing Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe addressed the state’s longtime funding disparity toward Mason by proposing $15 million in financial aid, $14 million in operating costs, and $21 million for the Bull Run IIIB building on the Science and Technology Campus in Prince William, among other important appropriations. All of this, of course, is contingent on the outcome of the legislative process.
Our goal both at Mason Day and in the coming weeks and months is to work to ensure that these proposed appropriations remain in the final budget as an investment in our students and in our state.
We tell our story best when we tell it together. And that’s what Mason Day is all about.