Business Matters

Gov. Northam joins George Mason, NOVA to announce gifts to ADVANCE

Gov. Ralph Northam joined representatives from George Mason University and Northern Virginia Community College on Monday to announce gifts in support of the ADVANCE partnership. The partnership between Mason and NOVA is helping clear obstacles so more transfer students can earn four-year degrees.

The Northrop Grumman Foundation has pledged support for ADVANCE student scholarships, while the Micron Foundation has pledged support for the partnership.

The gifts were announced during the ADVANCE Launch Celebration on Mason’s Fairfax Campus. This fall, Mason and NOVA welcomed the first contingent of ADVANCE students featuring 129 students enrolled across 21 majors. More than 200 additional ADVANCE students are expected to enroll in the ADVANCE program in the spring.

“ADVANCE is one of the most innovative ideas in higher education today,” Northam said. “George Mason University and NOVA have demonstrated that through collaboration and partnership, we can empower individuals, strengthen our workforce and create a Virginia that works better for all of its citizens.”

ADVANCE has created a single point of admission and financial aid for students, along with 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 is strengthening an existing partnership that has helped nearly 3,000 students annually transfer from NOVA to Mason. At the same time, it will 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.

“The ADVANCE partnership with NOVA exemplifies George Mason University’s commitment to providing access to excellence for students of all backgrounds,” Mason President Ángel Cabrera said. “Transfer best practices are easy to identify, but difficult to implement. Together, Mason and NOVA have created a transfer pathway that in time could serve as a model for transfer partnerships around the Commonwealth and around the country.”

“NOVA and Mason are natural partners, both committed to access and inclusivity for students from all walks of life,” NOVA President Scott Ralls said. “Our institutions measure success by our impact on the number of students we serve, not the percentage of students we turn away.”

The gift from the Northrop Grumman Foundation will be used to establish a scholarship fund for ADVANCE students pursuing STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) degrees.

“We recognize the growing need for a skilled workforce, trained and equipped to maintain our nation’s technological edge in a globalized and competitive world,” said Shawn Purvis, corporate vice president and president, Northrop Grumman Enterprise Services.  “There are far more high-tech positions to be filled than skilled workers to fill them. Programs such as ADVANCE can help close this gap.”

The gift from the Micron Technology Foundation will be used to provide stipends and coaching support for NOVA engineering students transferring to Mason as well as for ADVANCE outreach into local high schools.

“In order for Micron to achieve our mission, we need strong technical talent. That is why Micron and the Micron Foundation sponsor programs such as ADVANCE,” said Tim O’Brien, vice president and site executive of Micron in Virginia. “We appreciate the partnership with NOVA and Mason to provide opportunities for underrepresented students including first-time college goers.”

Nationally, 80 percent of community college students say they intend to complete a four-year degree. Only 15 percent, however, realize that dream within seven years because of unexpected barriers they encounter.

The ADVANCE partnership hopes to change that, and is already attracting attention from educators and leaders throughout the U.S. The Aspen Institute is currently studying college access and transferability and is observing the ADVANCE program as a national model for transfer student success.