Local Education Leader, Entrepreneur Launches Detroit’s Hybrid College   

Degree Forward announced today that it is launching Detroit’s first hybrid college under the direction of Detroit education leader and entrepreneur, Danielle North. Degree Forward is passionately pursuing higher college completion rates for working professionals. 

The new nonprofit will offer students an affordable, accelerated, and achievable online pathway to a degree through Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU). In September, Governor Whitmer signed a measure supported by Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature focused on degree completion support for adult learners. The $1.88 million grant to the Diploma Equity Project, the non-profit sponsor of Degree Forward, represents a bipartisan investment in the launch of Degree Forward. Danielle North, a partner in the Diploma Equity Project with Melissa Hamann and Doug Ross, will lead Degree Forward as executive director. 

“As a first-generation college graduate and former stop-out from college myself, I understand firsthand the challenges met while fulfilling the dream of degree attainment,” Danielle North, executive director, said. “Degree Forward helps eliminate the barriers to college completion by pairing an innovative and highly flexible online curriculum with tangible, and consistent local and personal support for our students.” 

Based on a successful program in Boston that has already helped hundreds of working adults gain the skills and degrees they need and want, Degree Forward is designed specifically for adults with jobs and family responsibilities who have stopped out or never attended college and want to earn a BA. It offers the flexibility of online, project-based courses that enable students to study and learn at their own time and pace. There are no tests or lectures, but there is more meaningful rigor. In this model, real-world projects are completed in a “Submit, Revise, Repeat” cycle until the assignment is mastered with A-level quality work. This approach has resulted in dramatic increases in degree completion rates for primarily African American and Latino adults in Boston and several other cities. 

“Degree Forward is a critical new piece of Detroit’s talent infrastructure introducing a proven model to enable Metro area adults who have stopped-out of college return to earn degrees and contribute their skills to the regional economy,” Doug Ross, partner, Diploma Equity Project, said.

Degree Forward is now open with an in-person study space at Grand River Workplace in Northwest Detroit. Plans are underway to open partner sites on the Eastside and in the Southwest neighborhoods of Detroit. A flagship location will open early next year and will include a computer lab, childcare, career services, and additional wraparound supports. This rollout and implementation strategy is designed with the community at the center to ensure the programming reaches the adults who need these services the most. 


“Degree Forward has been a blessing to me. It has been a breeze and easy to manage with my already hectic life. Joining this program has been the best decision I have ever made,” Keunita Whitney, current Degree Forward student.


Degree Forward is actively recruiting adults seeking a flexible, affordable path to a degree. Degree Forward supports enrolled students through their SNHU degree journey because our mission is their success. If our students aren’t completing their degrees, we’re not fulfilling our purpose. We plan to have 75-100 students enrolled by the end of 2022. Our efforts are focused on adult learners, working professionals and stop-outs. Therefore, high school graduates enrolling into traditional colleges are not our immediate target audience. 


Southern New Hampshire University is an accredited non-profit institution. As the largest provider of online education in the country, SNHU’s flexibility allows students to earn a bachelor’s or associate degree at their own pace so they can continue to work full-time or care for their loved ones. In addition, SNHU’s career-focused, project-based curriculum is designed to help learners earn a bachelor’s degree in as little as two to three years. 


Degree Forward also offers an affordable experience that allows students to earn a degree for no more than $7,000 per year with no hidden costs. Students receive a high-quality, real-world learning experience that prepares them for a meaningful career in the future. Degree Forward is currently offering three unique SNHU degree programs in the following areas: 

  • Business Management 
  • Bachelor of Arts in Management 
  • Associate of Arts in General Studies 
  • Healthcare Management 
  • Bachelor of Arts in Healthcare Management 
  • Associate of Arts in Healthcare Management 
  • Communications 
  • Bachelor of Arts in Communications 


An official launch event will be held at Marygrove Conservancy on November 11. The program will include an education panel with industry experts and a talk with college success leaders and students currently enrolled in the program. This is an invitation-only event. 



Enrollment is ongoing, and the next term begins January 3. Students starting in the January term must apply by December 10. To learn more, visit: https://www.degreeforward.org/


Learn more at www.snhu.edu. 

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