GMU and NOVA form partnership to ease student transitions


George Mason University and Northern Virginia Community College have announced a groundbreaking partnership to assist students as they transfer from a two-year program and complete a four-year undergraduate degree.

ADVANCE: A NOVA Mason Partnership will increase graduation rates and smooth the path to a degree while saving students time and money in the process. It also will work in collaboration with Northern Virginia employers to adapt and create high-demand programs to fulfill critical workforce needs.

“I’m proud to be part of this announcement of a new, stronger partnership between our largest public research university and largest two-year college,” Gov. Terry McAuliffe said. “My administration has always focused on three broad goals: ensuring equality for all Virginians, enhancing our quality of life, and building a new Virginia economy. There is no better way to achieve these goals than ensuring our citizens have access to high-quality education, which we all know leads to better jobs, greater fulfillment, and more enriched lives.”

ADVANCE creates for students a single point of admission and financial aid, a dedicated advisor from admission to NOVA through graduation from Mason, realignment of curricula to ensure students do not lose credits when they transfer, and financial incentives for the neediest students to advance to graduation.

The program would strengthen an existing partnership that has helped nearly 3,000 students annually transfer from NOVA to Mason. At the same time, it seeks to help students save money. Estimates show students who earn a four-year Mason degree two years after transferring from NOVA can save a full year of tuition.

“We see this as a critical solution at a time when many students across the nation who want a degree are not able to achieve that goal,” Mason President Ángel Cabrera said. “We are committed to helping these students and seeADVANCE as a real difference-maker.”

Although 80 percent of students attending community colleges say they want to earn a four-year degree, only 14 percent achieve that goal after six years, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Students who graduate from NOVA with an associate’s degree perform better than the average, at 20 percent.

Those are striking numbers in a time when, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, a graduate of a four-year college can expect to earn 33 percent more over their lifetime than a graduate of a two-year college.

“This is about making the right investment for our future,” NOVA President Scott Ralls said. “Our power to grow together to support the region is fundamental to the growth of the Northern Virginia economy. It’s also an essential component of our mission of inclusive excellence, which ensures that all students who want a degree can earn one.”

George Mason and Northern Virginia Community College are particularly well positioned for this undertaking. They already have an articulation agreement that essentially guarantees admission for transfer students if certain requirements are met. And ADVANCE builds upon the foundation of a pilot program in mechanical engineering, part of the institutions’ ongoing commitment to making education as accessible and affordable as possible within the Commonwealth.



About the Author

Truman Lewis
A former reporter and bureau chief, Truman Lewis has covered presidential campaigns, state politics and stories ranging from organized crime to environmental and consumer protection.