Northern Virginia Community College and George Mason University plan to strengthen their ADVANCE partnership with plans to offer more than 75 degree pathways in Fall 2019, almost four 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 currently 21 ADVANCE pathways this academic year, aligning degree programs and student services for more than 300 students. With the addition of the new degree pathways, it is expected that ADVANCE will add another 300 students in the next academic year, across dozens of majors. ADVANCE offers students the opportunity to reduce the time and cost of earning a four-year degree, saving as much as $15,000.
“It’s been amazing to see the strides we’ve made and extremely encouraging to know that we’ve started a movement in the way community colleges partner with four-year institutions. ADVANCE has truly created a streamlined pathway for students to get from NOVA to Mason without losing credits along the way” said Dr. Mel Schiavelli NOVA’s Interim President.
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 than was originally 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.”
Northern Virginia Community College is the largest institution of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America's largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls more than 75,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield and Woodbridge, and through the Extended Learning Institute. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, call 703-323-3000 or visit the College's Web site, www.nvcc.edu.