College for America Blog

Many Paths, Many Partners: The SNHU Formula for Expanding Access to Higher Education


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Posted In: Workforce Partnerships Press Releases

Jul • 12 • 2019

The SNHU Formula for Expanding Access to Higher Education

Idea in brief:
SNHU expands access to higher education for “nontraditional” students by partnering with a wide range of organizations and employers. An ebook profiles several of these partnerships and how they work.

Earning a college degree is an increasingly necessary step for success. But today’s students get there from many different paths, with many different obstacles. Helping students on these varied paths to achieve their goals requires universities to be creative in who they partner with.

Some students need to work full time to support themselves or their families. Others may move regularly because of their — or their spouse’s — military service. Still others may come from disadvantaged backgrounds and lack the support structure to succeed in college.

The traditional college experience is designed for young people who attend full time and have no family or work responsibilities. But most of today’s actual college students don’t fit that profile. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 74% of all undergraduates in 2011-12 had at least one “nontraditional characteristic.”

These characteristics could include:

  • enrolling in college later;
  • being a single caregiver;
  • not having a traditional high school diploma;
  • working a full-time job;
  • having dependents; and
  • attending college part time.

Those learners are military spouses who may need to pack up their entire family on short notice and leave their traditional school behind.

They are professional soccer players who left college to go pro and are now looking to re-enter the workforce at the end of their careers.

They are workers from immigrant families whose parents have sacrificed everything to get them an education, but who can’t afford traditional college fees.

They are workers in frontline jobs eager to prepare for a leadership role in their department but with inconsistent work and childcare schedules.

These students make up the majority of students pursuing higher education degrees, yet the unique paths they are traveling are rarely accounted for in how degree programs are designed.

Removing barriers to education

Fortunately, a number of organizations are walking those paths with students and working to remove barriers. These organizations include community-based nonprofits and employers with talent development programs.

Through its Workforce Partnerships division, Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) works directly with established organizations to develop learning opportunities for these unique populations of working adults and other nontraditional students.

For example, SNHU works with:

    • Community and public service organizations like Duet, IDEA-U and PeletonU. These partnerships offer on-the-ground support to nontraditional students taking online courses.
    • Professional sports teams and leagues like the Boston Celtics and Major League Soccer. They help their athletes develop skills for a career after retirement.
    • Military organizations like the USO and Operation Homefront. They assist service members, transitioning veterans and military spouses to sustain momentum on their degree paths.
    • Academic organizations like community colleges, technical colleges and high schools. These partnerships allow those schools to offer more comprehensive programs so students can earn more credentials.
    • Large employers. They provide a path to a college degree through tuition assistance programs.

Some partners help students enroll in SNHU’s traditional online degree programs and provide support structures to help them succeed. Others offer students access to SNHU’s College for America, an online project-based, competency-based degree program designed to be highly relevant to career skills.

Helping nontraditional students thrive

Each of these organizations is reshaping what it means to support nontraditional students. They join students on the paths they are traveling, design specialized supports and find a university partner that understands today’s students.

  • At IDEA U, a community-based nonprofit in the Rio Grande Valley, students who enroll in SNHU’s programs commit to 13 hours of residence a week at the facility in Weslaco, Texas. There, they have access to meeting spaces, printers, copiers, coffee and snacks. The facility is staffed by advisors.
  • To support military service members, SNHU works with the U.S. Army to award college credit for training courses taken by service members who work as recruiters.
  • In Rwanda, SNHU delivers College for America degree programs in partnership with Kepler University. Students in the Kiziba Refugee Camp and the capital city Kigali can access the program. Kepler and its community-based partners provide academic and employment support locally to the over 500 students who work toward SNHU degrees.

In each case, SNHU works directly with the partner organization to understand the needs of its student population. Together, they come up with a support structure that helps the student population thrive.

Expanding access to higher ed

Through these various partnerships, SNHU is expanding access to higher education. From working adults in Boston to refugees in Rwanda, the impact of a college education is tangible.

As a university, SNHU’s vision is to improve on and extend the impact of traditional higher education. Partnerships are key to that goal.

Download the ebook The Partnership Approach to Expanding Higher Education Access to learn more about the organizations SNHU works with to improve opportunities for nontraditional students around the world.