Reimagining College Tuition: Lessons from Hope Colleges Hope Forward Initiative

by Peter Baron

Whenever I discover schools or colleges innovating the business model for sustainability, I try to absorb and share their lessons.

Case in point: “A Good Circle” from Revisionist History by Malcolm Gladwell— it’s a must-listen.

The episode digs into the vision, impact, and potential of Hope College’s “Hope Forward” initiative — a revolutionary approach to address the tuition barriers to accessing college education.

Gladwell calls “Hope Forward” a gamble but a worthy one to address deep-rooted issues in higher education.

I appreciate the program’s clear connection to the college’s mission.

Here are some of the “Hope Forward” highlights noted in the episode:

  • “Hope Forward” is a tuition-free funding model.
  • Instead of paying tuition upfront, students donate to the college after graduating.
  • 58 students piloted the initiative across two years.
  • Was initiated by Hope College President Matthew A. Scogin in the summer of 2021.
  • For the rest of the students who aren’t participating in “Hope Forward,” the college launched “Anchored Tuition” to freeze tuition at the rate they paid when they first enrolled.
  • The college wants to raise approx $1 billion to endow “Hope Forward.”

Student Commitment:

  • No contract on a specific amount or income percentage to be paid back.
  • Students sign a covenant to give as per their ability post-graduation to help future students.
  • Goal: Students graduate debt-free and lead impactful lives, not just focus on earning.

While Hope College’s approach may not fit your school, that’s okay.

Focus on it as an example of how looking deep into your organization’s mission may uncover ways to make your school sustainable for the future.

Give the episode a listen, and let me know what you think.

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