SNHU Awarded $3.9 million “First in the World” Grant from U.S. Department of Education

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Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) today has been awarded a highly competitive $3.9 million “First in the World” innovation grant from the U.S. Department of Education to build student-centered solutions to support learners in need of additional academic support.

“With this major innovation grant, we will build on our competency-based College for America model by developing a new layer of support to help academically underprepared adults become successful," said SNHU President Paul LeBlanc

Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) today has been awarded a highly competitive $3.9 million “First in the World” innovation grant from the U.S. Department of Education to build student-centered solutions to support learners in need of additional academic support.

“Above everything else, Southern New Hampshire University is dedicated to student success,” said SNHU President Paul LeBlanc. “With this major innovation grant, we will build on our competency-based College for America model by developing a new layer of support to help academically underprepared adults become successful college students.”

The four-year grant is awarded to 24 of the nation’s most innovative higher education initiatives, including projects at SNHU, University of Southern California, Purdue University, and UNC-Chapel Hill. Nearly 500 schools applied. For more information and a full list, visit: http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/department-awards-75-million-first-world-grants-24-colleges-and-universities

The grant will build on the success of SNHU’s competency-based College for America by developing a new learning support structure that bypasses remedial education and instead provides just-in-time, contextualized academic assistance. The innovative approach incorporates user-centered design as well as gaming elements and will be evaluated using a rigorous Randomized Controlled Trial.

SNHU’s project was designed and will be directed by Cathrael Kazin, Chief Academic Officer of College for America. “The well-documented failure of remedial and developmental education has had terrible personal and economic consequences for underrepresented and low-income working adults as well as for our nation as a whole,” said Kazin. “We are developing and testing the approach within College for America’s competency-based model but it will be applicable to more traditional higher education institutions as well. This new approach has the potential to change the lives of the 40% of all college students who are now diverted into developmental education instead of college-level, credit-bearing courses.”

According to the Department of Education, “the grants will fund the development and testing of innovative approaches and strategies at colleges and universities that improve college attainment and make higher education more affordable for students and families.”

In announcing the grant competition, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said, “The President is asking for the most innovative thinking that the field has to offer to spark some real creativity and innovation across higher education in order to achieve better outcomes for our student.”

The grant project will build on the success of SNHU’s competency-based College for America (CfA), which serves working adult students by partnering with employers nationwide. Since its 2013 launch, CfA has enrolled more than 1,000 students from more than 60 employers, including McDonald’s, Goodwill, and some of the nation’s largest hospital and health systems. In 2013, CfA became the nation’s first competency-based, fully accredited higher education provider to be approved for federal financial aid independent of the traditional credit hour model. In May 2014, the school announced the approval of the first nationally available, accreditor-approved $10,000 bachelor’s degree.

Southern New Hampshire University is a nonprofit, private university with a focus on student success and a reputation for innovation in higher education. SNHU was named one of the “50 Most Innovative Organizations in the World” by Fast Company magazine in 2012 and is the fastest-growing nonprofit provider of online higher education in the country. The university’s home is a 300-acre main campus in Manchester, NH, and it offers more than 200 undergraduate and graduate online degree programs, five continuing education centers across Northern New England, and the College for America degree program for working adults and employers.

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Gregg Mazzola

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