George Mason University

News at Mason

ADVANCE grows for fall 2019, offering more pathways to a four-year degree

September 18, 2019   /   by Preston Williams

New ADVANCE students were on the Fairfax Campus this September for orientation. Photo by Evan Cantwell/Creative Services.

Adeline Vo can sum up in four words her experience in the ADVANCE Program, a transfer pathway between Northern Virginia Community College and George Mason University that aligns curriculum, financial aid, advising and other student services.

“Complete peace of mind,” said Vo, 25, who in addition to attending classes at NOVA manages a hair and nail salon in Washington, D.C. “The only problem I need to focus on is going to work and getting the grades. All the white noise in between isn't an issue as much anymore. That should be how it is.”

Hundreds of students and their families are making that same discovery. In the second year of the ADVANCE Program, more than 690 students are enrolled, including nearly 400 students who joined this fall. ADVANCE now offers 102 pathways in various degrees—five times as many as when it launched last year.

Cited by the Chronicle of Higher Education as “one of the nation’s most successful transfer partnerships,” ADVANCE streamlines the NOVA-to-Mason transfer pathway, saving students time and money off the cost of a degree because all their NOVA classes will count toward meeting their Mason degree requirements.

Ashlie Prioleau, ADVANCE’s executive director, said 90 percent of students who enrolled in Fall 2018 continued in the Spring 2019 semester. Twenty-three ADVANCE students already have matriculated to Mason after earning their associate’s degrees at NOVA.

“The strong partnership between NOVA and Mason is allowing this program to live and breathe,” Prioleau said. “We collaborate on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis to eliminate traditional transfer barriers and ensure that students are getting the support they deserve.”

The most popular pathways for ADVANCE students include cybersecurity, management, biology, nursing, cyber security engineering and computer engineering. Mason produces the most tech talent of any university in the state, and ADVANCE helps to fuel Mason’s tech talent pipeline. Thirty-nine percent of the 319 students in ADVANCE in its inaugural year were in technology-related degree pathways.

To provide additional opportunities in tech fields, this fall, as part of the ADVANCE Program, Mason and NOVA announced a new Bachelor of Applied Science pathway in Cloud Computing, in partnership with Amazon Web Services, to launch next year. Northrop Grumman and Micron have awarded grants for student scholarships in tech programs. Strada Education Network awarded a $1 million grant to build the ADVANCE Career Accelerator to provide students personalized coaching and services to help identify career goals and create direct connections to the workforce. 

ADVANCE also supports Mason’s mission of access. The first ADVANCE group was 18 percent African American, 16 percent Asian, 15 percent Hispanic, 15 percent white, and 15 percent of two or more races (21 percent did not identify their race), and 48 percent qualified for Pell Grants.

Dane Parker, 25, a biology major, entered ADVANCE this fall. He considers his new path more “fast-tracked” than his old one.

“You were able to—at a glance—figure out what classes you needed,” Parker said at a recent welcome event at the Johnson Center for ADVANCE students. “It was kind of locked in for you. I knew there were a lot of other kids who were having difficulties with trying to take credits that didn’t exactly transfer. So far it’s been amazing.”

Parker and Vo both cited the helpfulness of their success coach, Sabrey Garling, as key to their ADVANCE experience. Success coaches assist students from enrollment at NOVA through graduation from Mason. “You have a point of contact knowing you and knowing what your goals are,” Parker said.

Mason and NOVA partnered with InsideTrack to help provide students with consistent, tailored support at both institutions. In addition, Mason issues ADVANCE students a Mason ID that grants access to Mason libraries, fitness centers and other facilities.

“Being in ADVANCE, you’re basically almost a Mason student while being at NOVA,” Vo said. “There’s no question about where to go next or if it’s going to work. It’s nice to know that your path is already taken care of.”