Southern New Hampshire University has announced a $10 million gift from a group of anonymous donors to make its online competency-based degree programs available to refugees in the United States and around the world.
The gift will support the first large-scale initiative to provide refugees with access to degrees from an accredited American university, with a goal of educating fifty thousand people in twenty locations by 2022. In partnership with Rwandan nonprofit Kepler, SNHU piloted the project in the Kiziba refugee camp and graduated an initial cohort of sixteen students with associate degrees, all of whom secured internships outside the camp and are now working on their bachelor's degrees. In partnership with the United Nations High Commission on Refugees, the Connected Learning in Crisis Consortium, SOLVE at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the American University of Beirut, the university plans to launch programming at four additional sites over the next two years.
"The refugee crisis will require concerted social, legal, and political action, but education holds the key to an alternative future of possibility," said SNHU president Paul LeBlanc. "At SNHU, we believe education is a fundamental human right, that's why we want to bring our degrees to some of the most underserved populations in the world."
"Education remains the greatest source of hope and opportunity for people on the far margins of society," said former U.S. secretary of education Arne Duncan, who serves on an advisory board for the initiative. "SNHU's work in the camps brings education to some of the most desperate and poorly served people in the world today."