The Audacious Project
Impact 2020
Year in numbers
Southern New Hampshire University

Southern New Hampshire University

SNHU has developed a fully-accredited, competency-based learning model that stimulates opportunity. Through the Global Education Movement (GEM), they’re bringing higher education to refugee camps around the world, offering students the opportunity to pursue a US-accredited Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or Associate of Arts (A.A.) degree at no cost. With seed funding from Audacious to pilot the program, they’re now seeking to scale their solution to 15 countries over the next five years, lowering the cost of the degree and enabling more than 16,000 refugees across 23 sites to improve their futures.

Main photo caption: Saida Aden Siad from Somalia lives in Kakuma Camp, Kenya and is studying towards a US accredited degree at no-cost through SNHU’s GEM program. / TED
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Southern New Hampshire University


In two years, SNHU has expanded GEM to 10 sites in five countries — Rwanda, Lebanon, South Africa, Malawi and Kenya — serving nearly 1,700 individuals, with a rate of less than five percent attrition. And 88 percent of students are employed within six months of graduating. 

SNHU quickly pivoted to remote delivery of the program due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring zero interruption in studies. GEM also launched new, fully-virtual sites in Nairobi and Lebanon; scaled its virtual exchange program between students in Lebanon and the US; and graduated the largest class to date. 

SNHU GEM students and alumni are now rising as leaders in their communities. This year, graduates helped construct a World Bank-funded entrepreneurship and coding training center in Malawi’s Dzaleka Refugee Camp; oversaw a community technology center providing emergency support to women in Cape Town, South Africa; and in Kenya, created Kakuma Refugee Camp’s first commercial factory, which has been critical in distributing soap during the camp’s COVID response. 

“Our students live in close-quartered refugee camps and urban areas and experienced some of the strictest quarantines in the world. In this context, we quickly transitioned to a blended learning model that offered in-person supports online across five countries. Students emerged as community leaders at the frontlines of community upliftment and COVID response.”

Chrystina Russell, SNHU