Gratitude, Generosity, and a Great Future: The Strength Behind Hope Forward

Although the holidays are over, Hope College is committed to maintaining a culture full of gratitude and generosity year-round. Centered around these two qualities, Hope Forward – a donor-funded economic tuition model – has allowed the community of Hope to step into this attitude together: students, faculty and alumni alike.

Hope Forward, proposed by President Matt Scogin, is a financial model that rethinks the way college is paid for. As it is named, Hope Forward runs on a “pay-it-forward” basis. The promise of Anchored Tuition – that the base tuition amount a student pays will not fluctuate while they remain at Hope – is just the beginning of what Hope Forward has to offer. 

The vision for Hope Forward is to provide fully-funded tuition for every student on campus, and Hope Forward is piloting this idea through a cohort model. Each year, a group of incoming first-year students is gifted their tuition from generous donors, and in turn, students sign a covenant commitment to give generously and annually after graduation. The Hope Forward student cohorts grow together throughout their college years, attending workshops, retreats, volunteer projects, etc. that not only highlight the gratitude they share in the gifts they were given, but provide an opportunity to serve generosity as they are being equipped for their post-college lives.

Hope Forward Program Director, Nicole Dunteman, comments on the changes she’s seen in some of the junior cohort students, saying, “They began college with big hopes and dreams to positively impact the world and through an outstanding Hope education they’re being equipped with valuable knowledge and skills to do so.” Whether it be stepping into roles as Residential Assistants, or finding an organization they regularly volunteer with, Hope Forward empowers students to fully immerse themselves in what Hope has to offer.

The vision for Hope Forward is that one day each student on campus will have their tuition covered, but Hope is starting small. For the time being, the application process is very competitive. It is run through the Admission Office in collaboration with staff and faculty across campus.

This past Tuesday, nearly 200 of the 500 Hope Forward applicants, currently high school seniors, were notified that they had made it to the next step of the application process. Although it is lengthy, the Hope Forward application process provides an opportunity for prospective students to passionately express their specific desires and plans to bring hope to a hopeless world through their essays, and interviews.

Though many people may understand Hope Forward to be a scholarship program, Dunteman thinks otherwise. “While scholarships can be categorized into need-based, merit-based, or identity-based, Hope Forward looks at the heart of the student. Instead of the word ‘scholarship,’ we call it a gift which speaks to the purpose of the model: a gift to be received and then given away.”

There is a strong emphasis on exploring gratitude and generosity with the Hope Forward students, and Dunteman believes that these attributes correlate with the “institutional vision” that Hope has for its community as a whole. When you walk on Hope’s campus, you can feel the change in the air. The people are what contribute to that atmospheric shift because they give of their time, resources and talents.

Dunteman believes that if we “continue developing this spirit of generosity on campus, [it] has the potential to invoke real change,” and specifically, “the face of higher education”.

The Hope Forward economic model has attracted eyes throughout the country, specifically those of Sattler College, an Anabaptist institution in Boston. Dunteman loves “that Hope is paving the way for future institutions,” because “gratitude and generosity are contagious!” Sattler has made a few changes in their wording of the model, but the principles are quite similar and focus on gratuity and generosity.

Hope Forward is just the beginning, and the world is anxiously awaiting to see what success this model will prove to become both within Hope and beyond. In a world that tends to save gratitude for Thanksgiving and giving for Christmas-time, Hope Forward shines a light on Matthew 10:8: “Freely you have received; freely give.” What will education look like with students freely giving as they’ve freely received?

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