ADVANCE program expected to top 100 transfer pathways this fall

Mason and NOVA plan to offer 100 ADVANCE pathways this fall. Photo courtesy of NOVA.

George Mason University’s ADVANCE transfer program with Northern Virginia Community College plans to offer more than 100 degree pathways in fall 2019, five times as many as currently offered in the inaugural year of the program.

“There’s been an incredible amount of faculty interest as more faculty and staff understand the mission and purpose of ADVANCE,” said Michelle Marks, Mason vice president for academic innovation and new ventures. “We have more and more departments interested in participating.”

There are 21 ADVANCE pathways this academic year, aligning degree programs and student services for more than 300 students. Mason expects ADVANCE to add another 300 students in the next academic year, across dozens of majors. ADVANCE students can reduce the time and cost of earning a four-year degree, saving as much as $15,000.

Janette Muir, associate provost for academic initiatives and services, cites summits that brought together hundreds of Mason and NOVA faculty, advisors and staff as a key factor in designing and installing twice the number of pathways that Mason projected to offer this fall. Academic department heads are now contacting ADVANCE instead of the other way around, she added.

“The momentum is there,” Muir said. “Deans are saying, ‘Why aren’t our programs in ADVANCE?’ There is strong encouragement from deans in helping to develop pathways connected to their colleges.”

“It has been inspiring to see how Mason faculty have enthusiastically embraced the ADVANCE program,” Mason President Ángel Cabrera said, “an indication of our faculty’s commitment to the university's mission of access to excellence.”

What sets ADVANCE apart from other relationships between two- and four-year institutions is the alignment both of courses and services, such as advising and financial aid. Each ADVANCE student is assigned a “success coach” who helps guide the student from enrollment at NOVA through graduation from Mason.

The Chronicle of Higher Education last year referred to the NOVA-to-Mason path as “one of the nation’s most successful transfer partnerships.” The Aspen Institute also is observing ADVANCE as a national model for successful transfer.

Employers like the program because it provides a wider and more highly qualified and diverse talent pool to fill critical shortages in the workforce. Northrop Grumman and Micron have pledged support for ADVANCE. Last month, the national nonprofit Strada Education Network announced a $1 million grant to fund an education-to-employment pathway for ADVANCE students to further prepare them for post-graduation success.

“ADVANCE is about access and opportunity, and also about business and economic competitiveness,” Cabrera said. “The new pathways will help thousands of students achieve their goals and will help fill the growing talent needs of our vibrant business community.”