MANCHESTER — Southern New Hampshire University’s College for America is expanding its higher education program for working adults, offering bachelor’s in communications and health care management at a cost of $10,000 for a four-year degree.
SNHU President Paul LeBlanc said Monday the school received approval last week from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, the academic accrediting body for the region. The goal is to have students enrolled and pursuing BAs through the competency-based standards by this fall.
“Through the various competencies, we’re very clear about claims we make for what students learn and what they can do,” LeBlanc said. “That’s really what people love about the program. There’s no sliding by with a ‘C.’ You’ve either mastered something or you haven’t yet.”
College for America announced its associate’s programs last year, basing the degrees on 120 core competencies that students may have picked up on the job instead of in a classroom. Students were able to navigate at their own pace, while progress and proficiency were evaluated by instructors and advisors who could offer guidance to students.
LeBlanc said 132 other institutions are working on developing competency-based programs.
“I think everybody has a sense that it is a coming wave,” LeBlanc said.
The College for America bachelor’s degree will be based on 240 core competencies with tuition costing $2,500 per year. Students who took four years to complete the program would pay $10,000 — a fraction of the cost at many institutions of higher learning.
Employers have also jumped on board with the concept, partnering with the school to allow employees to receive academic credit for material they may already know or can learn through their jobs.
One of the partner companies is Wellpoint/Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield.
Anthem’s Darby Conley was a mother of two young children with a third on the way when she heard about the associate’s program last year. Eight months later, she had her associate’s degree.
Conley started at Anthem as a customer service representative about 15 years ago and has advanced within the company, but said she has been warned repeatedly that the lack of a degree was going to be a barrier at some point.
She used to joke in interviews that she had attended the “University of Anthem,” not knowing that would become an avenue toward receiving a degree.
“It sounded like an opportunity that was going to provide flexibility that I needed. It focused on ‘transferable knowledge,’” she said.
Conley plans to enroll in the BA program as soon as she’s able.
“Anthem produced a pretty strong student in me,” said Conley, who lives in New Boston with her husband and three children. “We can succeed with a lot of knowledge we already have. CFA gave me a different lens to look through.”