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Southern New Hampshire University will offer competency-based degrees to federal employees through its College for America, the university announced this week. The partnership with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management means all federal employees will be able to earn associate and bachelor's degrees from College for America at an annual tuition rate of $3,000. College for America offers degrees in health-care management, communications, general studies and management.

The nonprofit SNHU in 2013 was the first to gain federal approval for a form of competency-based education called direct assessment, which is self-paced and does not rely on the credit-hour standard. A handful of other colleges have followed SNHU and College for America with direct-assessment degrees.

"This alliance will open the doors to higher education for thousands of federal workers and their families and will allow them to develop skills that are immediately applicable in the workplace," said Paul LeBlanc, SNHU's president, in a written statement.