Guild Advisor and Southern New Hampshire University’s President, Paul LeBlanc on how to drive impact for adult learners.

Southern New Hampshire University is the largest nonprofit provider of online higher education in the country. As part of that work, SNHU partners with Guild Education to serve adult working learners.  The university is led by Paul LeBlanc who has helped to pioneer online learning — and in June Guild announced that LeBlanc would join the company’s advisory board, where he will help drive insights on the future of work and the future of learning. 

LeBlanc has served as SNHU’s president since 2003. During that time, SNHU has grown from 2,800 students to more than 135,000 learners. Before his current role, he served as Senior Policy Advisor to Under Secretary Ted Mitchell in the U.S. Department of Education, working on competency-based education, new accreditation pathways, and innovation. He joined Guild for a conversation earlier this year in which he discussed the future of education and adult learning. 

What interested you in joining Guild Education’s Advisory Board? How is this work going to be different for you from other Advisory Boards you have served on in the past?

I am such a firm believer in the American dream and the centrality of education. Just like Guild, I want to contribute to unlocking opportunities for people to be an engine of social mobility. Students need to feel like they matter, and Guild does that well especially through their coaching. As an Advisory Board member, I will continue strategizing ways to reinvent higher education so it works better for everybody and ensures genuine learning.

What work and impact are you most excited about?

I am most excited about the focus on upskilling. I love the fact that we’re seeing this growth in skills, and it is a reflection of enormous displacement in the workforce right now. Working adults who don’t have the luxury of waiting for two or four-year degrees need something that gets them back to work immediately. We are looking at shorter-term programs that give working adults the skills they need to advance in the workforce. Having a 2-year or 4-year degree still has its significance but it’s not the only solution that Guild and its partners provide. 

Why do you think university communities struggle to serve working adult learners in particular? How do you think Guild is making a difference?

Universities and higher ed struggle with insisting on 2-year and 4-year degrees like it is an equitable option, but higher education is still a privilege in this country. The demographic of non-traditional students is growing and it is becoming harder and more expensive for universities to recruit and retain them. It is challenging for universities to quickly adjust to the changing student demographics and rising student acquisition costs. Guild sits at the intersection of education and employment. Their platform is designed to support companies, universities, and the working adult learner, as well to solve the negative cycle of recruitment and retention.

Can you speak more about the significance of Guild for academic partners?

Guild has brought together a network of leading companies and innovative, non-profit universities dedicated to upskilling and advancing the education and career goals of working adults across America. Through Guild, our academic partners benefit from the opportunity to serve a broader and national group of students, increase enrollment and retention, and shift marketing dollars to student innovation that supports increasing student outcomes.

Southern New Hampshire University is also an academic partner of Guild. How has Guild impacted SNHU’s initiatives? 

Student success is our mission and we have relentlessly been working at reinventing education since the year of 1932. Partnering with Guild has been a big opportunity for SNHU to continue its mission by increasing student enrollment and retention. We serve students from ten different employers through our partnership with Guild including Walmart and Chipotle who cover 100% of their employees’ tuition and book expenses. Guild has been an essential part of our ecosystem ensuring that more students can have access to higher education.