Authored by SNHU President Paul LeBlanc and CHEPP Executive Director Jamie Fasteau
Laying the groundwork
Like many college students, Eleshia Louis got a lot out of her postsecondary education. She was inspired by her professors, developed new skills and improved her self-confidence, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in businesses from Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU). Eleshia was also a 51-year-old military spouse and mother who had been out of the classroom for decades when she decided to pursue her degree. “We moved around a lot. I was raising my son by myself while my spouse was deployed. I worked full-time.” She needed a pathway that was flexible enough for her and her family.
The reality is, the majority of people pursuing higher education today have something in common with Eleshia. They’re part-time students with full-time jobs, parents and breadwinners who juggle coursework and caregiving. Often, they are struggling to make ends meet.
These learners know that post-secondary degrees lead to better jobs, higher pay, and better social and economic conditions for individuals and society. Yet they often find that today’s higher education institutions and policies are not structured to meet their needs: they prioritize time spent in the classroom over what a learner can do, or offer limited support for basic needs.
We’ve seen the consequences of the traditional approach. College enrollment has fallen every semester since spring 2020, and an ever-growing number of people – 39 million, to be exact – have some college credit, but no degree. The failings of the system can leave learners disillusioned with higher education and doubting whether they are really “college material.”
We know these learners are college material, and what’s more, we believe that their lived experiences should be an asset to their education and institution, not a barrier to success. Change won’t happen overnight, but one thing we know is that it must be rooted in learner-centered design: building systems and policies that meet learners where they are.
That’s why we started the Center for Higher Education Policy and Practice (CHEPP).
CHEPP is a new research and policy organization on a mission to center learners in the future of higher education. We believe that our educational system can only realize its full potential when it offers a pathway to social and economic mobility for all learners, not just a select few. CHEPP was created to craft and advance the learner-centric policies that will allow them to thrive.
At its core, CHEPP seeks to connect with the individuals and organizations that share our commitment to creating policy solutions for learners of all backgrounds and experiences. We’re conducting research that tackles subjects like basic needs funding, competency-based education, and wraparound supports for learners because we know that strong academic, financial, and social support is a prerequisite for successfully obtaining a postsecondary degree.
CHEPP is also convening decisionmakers in federal and state government and at institutions of higher education to craft policies that break down traditional barriers to student success and equitable outcomes. Building a higher education system that works for all learners demands a fundamental redesign of institutions and programs, and leaders and lawmakers have an important role to play in this transformation.
In the coming months, CHEPP hopes to become a hub for policymakers, colleges, universities, and research centers to learn from each other’s experiences, find common ground, and build higher education policies that help learners thrive.
Together, we can create higher education systems that offer a pathway to opportunity for all.
The SNHU connection
Southern New Hampshire University is a natural home for CHEPP. With its emphasis on learner-centered academic design and unparalleled support for students, SNHU has earned a reputation as a leader in the service of learners. With more than 3,000 students on campus and over 150,000 online in all 50 states, SNHU represents a new model for the diverse, national institution of higher education. Grounded in the knowledge of SNHU learners and practitioners, CHEPP has built a strong foundation to inform policy, research, and advocacy.
While SNHU is a natural home for this new initiative, CHEPP will work with other institutions, organizations, and allies that share its mission, focus on students, and desire to have policy informed by the experience and on-the-ground perspectives of the students it serves and the institutions that join CHEPP in the work.
It’s time to put the success of today’s learners at the center of our higher education policy and institutions. As policymakers and higher education institutions across the country seek out scalable, sustainable solutions to the changing needs of today’s learners, CHEPP is poised to emerge as an invaluable resource and a clarion voice for the new generation.
From policymakers and institutions to researchers and advocates, CHEPP is actively seeking partners. Get in touch to learn more and work together: [email protected]
The Center for Higher Education Policy and Practice (CHEPP) is a non-partisan higher education research, policy, and advocacy organization grounded in the experiences of higher education learners and practitioners. Working adults, caregivers, veterans – these learners are the new face of higher education. CHEPP collaborates with policymakers, colleges, universities, and research centers to advocate for higher education policy that is both attentive to their needs and mindful of institutional realities.
CHEPP has the data, insights, and expertise to help policymakers craft and refine policies that ensure higher education is a pathway to opportunity for everyone. We are a hub for sharing and strengthening solutions, a resource for robust analysis, and a partner to those who share a more equitable vision for higher education.
Email CHEPP at [email protected] to learn more and work together, and follow us on Twitter for more updates about our work.