Southern New Hampshire University

Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) is a private nonprofit university with a main campus in Manchester, New Hampshire, multiple satellite campuses and a robust online college. In addition, SNHU houses the low-cost, online, competency-based College for America (CfA), designed specifically for working adults.

Through CfA, SNHU offers a solution to the most pressing problems of cost, access and quality in higher education through high quality, competency-based, personalized education at scale. Using a self-paced model, CfA helps students build competencies in essential personal, professional, and cognitive skill areas rather than accumulate credit hours and grade points. SNHU uses labor market data and close collaboration with employers in developing new programs. The focus is on sectors with strong job growth, new jobs, and viable career paths. The Workforce Strategies group analyzes the competencies for these jobs and provides valuable input to the instructional design team.

Students move at their own speed and on their own schedules. Students demonstrate mastery of competencies by completing projects that include authentic, engaging tasks that enable students to learn by doing. Students submit their work online, where it is evaluated by a trained subject matter expert (called a “reviewer”) using a rubric. Students can submit work as many times as necessary, using feedback from the reviewer, until mastery is achieved.

Personalized connections and community engagement are critical to student learning and progress. Before completing enrollment in the program, students must connect with their learning coach. Learning coaches combine academic advising and life coaching to help students move through the program as efficiently as possible. Students also work with their coaches to develop resources including workplace mentors, who help students focus on career development, and accountability partners, who provide check-ins and motivation to help students stay on track.

More than two-thirds of CfA students are women, and the racial and ethnic demographics of our students are roughly comparable to overall national demographics in the United States. The average CfA student has been out of any type of educational setting for 20 years and has a median age of 40.