George Mason University began with a phone call in 1949 when University of Virginia President and former Governor of Virginia, Colgate W. Darden Jr., to C. Harrison Mann and told him that the people of Northern Virginia needed higher education. Darden asked Mann to lead a committee that would determine the feasibility of an institute of higher learning.

World War II had just ended and Northern Virginia had a large number of veterans seeking education under the G.I. Bill. In addition, the area had families with higher incomes than other parts of the state, but there were no state colleges in the area. Darden believed that new infrastructure was necessary to meet the growing educational needs of the area. His original vision was for a branch college of the university in Northern Virginia that would offer two-year degrees that could transfer to the university toward four-year degrees, but he wanted the people in the area to push for this new college as he did not want to be seen as its direct sponsor. He also did not want to start a competition with what is now Virginia Tech and the College of William & Mary.

In the spring of 1949, Arlington and Fairfax Counties along with the cities of Falls Church and Alexandria joined together to support the establishment of an institute of higher learning that would be associated with the University of Virginia in Northern Virginia. Washington & Lee High School in Arlington offered to help by offering classroom space in the evening. A house on the campus that belonged to the high school served as the extension center's office. The extension center was an instant success with 478 students enrolled in its first semester and it was not long before it became clear that the region needed more advanced college education.

In 1954, discussion began regarding offering daytime courses to students as well as the creation of a branch college rather than an extension center. The Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, which accredited the university, changed regulations so that only one year of college credit could transfer toward a bachelor's degree unless the school was an officially established branch of the institution, it became clear the university would have to expand their Northern Virginia location. In 1954, the extension center became an official branch of the University of Virginia.

Many sites were considered for the new branch, and much discussion ensued about where the new college would be placed. Finally, in 1959, after a long, drawn out decision process, what was known as the Farr tract, just south of the town of Fairfax, was chosen as the school's permanent home. While a permanent location was being decided, students met in an old elementary school building in Bailey's Crossroads. In 1960, the name of the school was changed to George Mason University and there is very little documentation regarding why the name was chosen. It is speculated that it was to honor the author of the Virginia Bill of Rights who was also an early abolitionist. The school became an independent university in 1972.

In 2008, GMU was named as the nation's number one university on its list of up-and-coming schools by U.S. News & World Report. GMU has also received a STARS Silver Rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, one of only two in Virginia to receive the distinction.

Accreditation Details

George Mason University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Accreditation indicates that the school has met the qualifications set forth by the agency that indicate excellence in education. Specific programs at George Mason University are also accredited by the following industry-related organizations:

  • American Bar Association
  • American Chemical Society
  • American Psychological Association
  • Association of University Programs in Health Administration
  • Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business
  • Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education
  • Commission of Healthcare Management Education
  • Computing Accreditation Commission of ABET
  • Council on Accreditation of Parks, Recreation, Tourism and Related Professions
  • Council on Education for Public Health
  • Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET
  • National Association of School Psychologists
  • National Association of Schools of Art and Design
  • National Association of Schools of Music
  • National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration
  • National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education
  • US Geospatial Intelligence Foundation
  • George Mason University Application Requirements

Freshman who have not attended any institute of higher learning who wish to attend George Mason University should complete either the Common Application or George Mason's Undergraduate Application for Admission. The student's GPA, SAT or ACT scores and secondary school report are used to determine admission. Students must supply official transcripts and SAT or ACT scores. A personal statement of approximately 400 words detailing why the student wants to attend college must be provided. Students must include extracurricular activities and community service on their application.

Transfer students who have 30 or more credits from another college or university must submit transcripts from all previously attended colleges and universities. One transcript must indicate the passage of a Freshman English and Mason Core equivalent math course. Students must have a 2.85 or higher GPA and must provide an essay about their background. A resume with gaps in enrollment is also required. Students with less than 30 credits should follow the same admissions procedures as high school freshmen.

Graduate students must hold a bachelor's degree or higher and have earned a 3.00 GPA or higher. Each program has different requirements and some require tests or exams before a student can be admitted. Students are encouraged to contact a graduate admissions counselor prior to completing the online application to confirm they have submitted all required information.

Tuition and Financial Aid

Undergraduate tuition at George Mason University for Virginia residents is $462.50 per credit hour and for out-of-state residents is $1,349.25 per credit hour. Graduate tuition rates vary with each program and range from $563.50 per credit hour in state or $988.43 per credit hour out of state to $1,645.83 per credit in state or $1,704 per credit hour out of state.

Financial aid is available in the form of grants, scholarship, work-study and loans. The Office of Student Financial Aid offers assistance to all students regarding aid that will help them attend the university. Students must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and submit it by March 1st each year.

Online Degree(s) Available

Master of Science in Information Security and Assurance

The Department of Computer Science offers a Master of Science degree in Information Security and Assurance that prepares graduates for leadership roles in the information security industry. Students gain knowledge and skills in the relationship between the need for security in the growing information systems world. Students are provided a theoretical understanding of science methodologies that insure the integrity of data while also protecting it from exposure. Students also learn about the availability of data and the legitimate use of that data and the systems that create it. The program is available completely online.

Master of Science in Information Systems

The Master of Science in Information Systems from George Mason University provides students with the technical, managerial and policy-making skills necessary to succeed in today's increasingly technological world. Students are provided training in building, designing and maintain critical information systems in organizations. In addition, they gain an understanding of the role data, information and knowledge play in modern businesses. Students are provided training in the theoretical and engineering aspects of large-scale information systems and an understanding in how to specify, design, implement and manage those systems. The entire degree program is available online.

George Mason University provides students with an education that can help them move into a new career or advance in a current career. They offer online programs with the flexibility necessary for learners who may have work, family or social obligations that prevent them from attending a traditional classroom setting.

Related Resource: 30 Most Affordable Online Master's in Information Technology