Trailblazing New University Foundation Will Invest Millions Annually in Non-Traditional, Working and Military Student Success

Innovative nonprofit National University unveils new foundation solely focused on often-neglected student populations; announces plans to double down on scholarships, emergency aid and “student success sciences”

SAN DIEGO, CA (JUNE 27, 2024)National University (NU)—a nonprofit, veteran-founded institution serving over 50,000 students annually through its degree programs and 80,000 more through its workforce and professional training programs — today announced the launch of the National University Foundation, the first in its more than 50-year history of serving working adults, non-traditional students and military-affiliated students. Continuing the university’s long-standing focus of distribution between $25 million and $30 million per year in student aid, the NU Foundation will drive investments in student scholarship funds, support academic programs tightly coupled with the needs of employers, and fund cutting-edge R&D to support hard-working students balancing complex career, education and family responsibilities.

“The students we serve reflect the best of our country, often demonstrating a profound resilience, determination, and a commitment to navigating life’s obstacles in pursuit of an education and their quest to make a difference,” said Dr. Mark D. Milliron, president and CEO of National University. “Given the unique needs of our students, this is a different kind of university foundation that will create pathways to possibility not only by removing financial barriers to access, but also by harnessing the power of research, technology and innovation to help more of these striving students rise and thrive. We are incredibly grateful for the generous donors that have made the launch of the foundation a reality.”

With an average age of 37, National University’s undergraduate, masters, and doctoral student populations reflect the shifting—and highly diverse—demographics of higher education today. About 80 percent of National University’s students take all of their classes online, while 93 percent of students take at least some classes online. Its online courses are blended with onsite clinical training, especially in teaching, psychology, and leadership programs. As one of the largest private Minority-Serving Institutions in the U.S., two-thirds of its students identify as Black, Indigenous and People of Color and 95 percent of undergraduates are transfer students. The vast majority are working and about half of NU’s undergraduate students are active-duty servicemembers, Veterans, or dependents.

The new foundation will launch with a significant endowment and pledged support for matching funds from existing donors, amplifying the impact of philanthropic giving and sustaining the university’s long-running commitment to investments in student aid and scholarships. In addition to the launch of the foundation itself, NU also announced the appointment of Dr. Nancy Rohland Heinrich, executive vice president for the university, as its first executive director. A lifelong educator and community leader well-known for the broad scope of her leadership roles over four decades with National University, she will lead a dedicated team focused on the university’s philanthropic and scholarship efforts.

The launch of the new university foundation represents an exciting—and in some respects, surprising—step for NU, which has no dorms, sports teams, or many of the other hallmarks of a residential campus and has never had a university foundation in its more than 50-year history. NU’s groundbreaking foundation will focus on three primary funding areas:

  • Scholarships for Non-Traditional, Working, and Military Students: The foundation will provide scholarships to support active-duty military, Veterans, and their dependents; first-generation students; and other non-traditional student populations to help reduce the financial burden of college and accelerate time to completion.
  • Academic and Workforce Excellence: Donors will have the opportunity to support named scholarships and academic programs, as well as workforce-relevant programs aligned with the needs of fast-growing industries.
  • Student Success Sciences: Funding will also support innovative pilot programs focused on “student success sciences” and the integration of academic, career, financial, emotional, and family support needed to help students stay on track and reach their goals—or what the university refers to as Whole Human Education.

The NU Foundation will be formally launched at a Gala on July 25th on the USS Midway that will host local and national philanthropists, government officials, commanding officers from National University-affiliated military installations, and dignitaries from the San Diego community, including San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria. The launch event will not only celebrate the establishment of the National University Foundation but also honor the NU Humanitarians of the Year, Dr. E. Lee Rice and Mary Rice, and commemorate President Milliron’s first full year at NU.

National University was founded in 1971 by a retired U.S. Navy Captain David Chigos, who conceived of a new type of university designed to meet the complex workforce training and continuing education needs of the San Diego region’s military and working student population. At the time, there were virtually no education and training options that met the diverse needs and schedules of non-traditional, working, and military students. Since then, the university has grown to become one of the largest private, nonprofit universities in the United States designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI), and home to the largest college of education in California.

To support its highly diverse student population, NU offers an array of support services and career-relevant academic programs that pair next-generation teaching and learning experiences to meet the needs of military students, working adults, and students of all ages and stages, including its flexible four, eight, and twelve-week courses, offered online, on-site, and in hybrid-learning formats.

For more information about the National University Foundation and its initiatives, please visit National University’s website.

About National University: National University, a Veteran-founded nonprofit, has been dedicated to meeting the needs of nontraditional, working, and military students by providing accessible, affordable higher education opportunities since 1971. As San Diego’s largest private nonprofit university, NU offers over 190+ online and on-campus programs with flexible four-week and eight-week classes and one-to-one graduate education models designed to help students reach their goals while balancing busy lives. Since its founding, the NU community has grown to 130,000 learners per year—50,000 degree-seeking students and 80,000 workforce and professional development students—and 230,000 alumni around the globe, many of whom serve in helping industries such as business, education, health care, cybersecurity, and law and criminal justice. To learn more about National University’s new possibilities in education including next-generation education, value-rich education, and whole human education, visit

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