George Mason University will be hosting Higher Education in Virginia: Looking Toward the Next Decade, a statewide conference regarding the future of Virginia’s education. The conference, which is in its first year, will be held on Tuesday.

The conference will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Johnson Center. The impetus for a conference on higher education was the recent legislation from the Virginia General Assembly identifying a goal of issuing 100,000 degrees over the next 15 years.

According to the press release, this legislation was informed by the Governor’s Commission on Higher Education Reform, Innovation and Investment.

Legislators and educators believe that achieving this goal will increase the aptitude of the future workforce in Virginia.

“The conference is broader than campus administration, pedagogy or curriculum,” said conference organizer and director of Mason’s Higher Education Program John O’Connor. “It is focusing on four issues that are likely to be of significance across the state over the next decade.”

The four issues under consideration are access, equity, and student success; public, private and for-profit; research into the future; and Virginia and global education.

“While the primary focus is on student success, it also looks at faculty research and state policies,” O’Connor said.

Participants from Mason include Andrew Flagel, Mason associate vice provost for enrollment development, Stephen Fuller, director of Mason’s Center for Regional Analysis, and Provost Peter Stearns. President Alan Merten will also be a guest speaker.

Representatives from other Virginia universities, including Old Dominion University and Northern Virginia Community College, state organizations like the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, and higher education associations will also be in attendance.

During the day there will be several panel discussions addressing a wide array of educational and institutional concerns.

Included in the discussions will be issues of access and affordability, funding and financial planning, research, and international programs like study abroad.

O’Connor stressed Mason’s role in the future of higher education saying, “Given the topics of this conference, the Governor’s Commission, and the new legislation, Mason is very involved and interested.

Given our location, demographics, and mission, we should be a leader in higher education in the state over the next decade.”

This event is being sponsored by Mason’s Higher Education Program, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences and the Office of the Provost. O’Connor also said that, while it is not certain, this has the potential to be the start of an annual conference.

The Higher Education in Virginia conference is open to the public. There is no charge to attend.