George Mason University

News at Mason

Mason, NOVA team chosen for Seamless Transfer Pathways Design Challenge

September 7, 2017   /   by John Hollis

George Mason University and Northern Virginia Community College were selected as one of four teams to take part in the Seamless Transfer Pathways (STP) Design Challenge.

Led by Education Design Lab and supported by funding from the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, the Design Challenge will lead two-year and four-year institutions through a student-centered, design innovation process intended to improve transfer pathways and graduation rates for students seeking bachelor’s degrees.

The Mason/NOVA team was among 50 institutional pairs that applied to participate in the Design Challenge. The three other institutional pairs selected include Miami Dade College/Florida International University; Township High School District 214, William Rainey Harper College/Northern Illinois University; and Collin College/University of North Texas. The teams will participate in three national cohort meetings and another three custom on-site design sessions. After the one-year design challenge concludes, Education Design Lab will track the results of the pilot programs for the next six years.

“Mason and NOVA are already committed to improving the transfer process for our students,” said Michelle Marks, Mason’s vice president of academic innovation and new ventures. “We’re excited about our selection because we know this will accelerate the progress of the ADVANCE program. One of the most exciting aspects of the challenge is the opportunity to work with a cohort of institutions that recognize the obstacles of the existing transfer model. This process will allow us to learn from each other and generate creative solutions that will increase our students’ success.”

Announced earlier this year, ADVANCE will create for students a single point of admission and financial aid and a dedicated advisor from admission to NOVA through graduation from Mason, while providing a realignment of curricula to ensure that students do not lose credits when they transfer, and financial incentives for the neediest students to advance to graduation.

Both Mason and NOVA have a long history of serving nontraditional students, but working together in the STP Design Challenge will push their collaborative efforts to new heights, Marks said. Further coordination between the two schools will be imperative for the program’s success. Too often in the past, issues such as a lack of proper advising, misaligned curricula, domicile policies and the inability to access financial aid have complicated the transfer process and stymied student pursuits of their degrees.

The STP Design Challenge will work with the selected institutional pairs to help them rethink the transfer experience. For Mason and NOVA, this means moving to a student-centered approach that responds to the needs of a diverse student demographic, including adult learners, first-generation students and veterans. The two schools will work together on redesigning their student support systems in conjunction with academic pathways that will guide transfer students through a degree program to enable them to graduate in a timely manner.

The ambitious agenda could reap huge regional dividends, as recent data from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW) estimates that 99 percent of the jobs added to the economy since January 2010 (11.5 million out of 11.6 million jobs) have gone to workers with postsecondary education, including 8.4 million filled by workers with bachelor’s degrees or higher. The CEW predicts that 65 percent of all jobs in America and 67 percent of the jobs in Virginia will require postsecondary education by 2020.