Hope Forward calls for student voice

This summer, Hope’s President, Matthew Scogin, introduced Hope Forward–a model that will drastically change the way that students pay for a Hope experience. The college hopes to implement the plan in the next ten to fifteen years. When it comes to fruition, all students would be offered a full-tuition scholarship with the expectation that upon graduation, alumni pay back their education through donations to the college. This plan, built on generosity, accessibility, and community, would remove barriers to higher education, including most notably, the high cost of tuition. 

With a change to the financial model of higher education comes changes to the demographics of the student population here at Hope. Hope is a PWI (predominantly white institution) with around 80% of our student body identifying as white. Along with this, 15% of our student population is made up of first-generation students. This is very misrepresentative of the world that we will be stepping into after graduation. However, with the Hope Forward model, Hope will become far more accessible to each and every population of students. In ten to fifteen years, the student body at Hope will be very different from what it is today. As the benefactors of this education, we should feel called to advocate for those students who will follow in our footsteps. 

Over the past two years, I have had the opportunity to serve as President of Student Congress. In this role, my life has become all about student voice and advocacy. I have been able to watch students fight for change in the new general education program that will be coming out in Fall ’23. This past fall, I saw Student Congress advocate for changes in academic advising and campus wages. Through Congress’ assessments wing, I have been able to see how survey responses have caused direct changes in Campus Safety, Dining Services, and the Boerigter Center for Calling and Career. Throughout my time in Student Congress, students have been able to have more of a respected voice in decisions made by the administration than ever before. This voice will only continue to become more important, especially as Hope Forward comes into fruition. 

While the student body at Hope continues to shift into becoming increasingly representative of the world, student needs will change. As students, we know what we need to get out of our Hope experience, and it is our responsibility to advocate for it. A Hope Forward student body will need more resources for student support, such as advising and work opportunities. It will need a curriculum that meets the needs of a changing workplace. Students will need programming that supports an increasingly diverse community. 

In order for these things to happen, and for future Hope students to succeed, it is our job to stand up and be advocates. Change cannot come from passivity, it takes a student body that knows how to push for change. From my experience, here are three strategies that help students fight for change.

  1. Know what you want out of your Hope College experience. In order to push for change, we have to know what will benefit us at Hope and after graduation.
  2. Start with relationships and humility. To have students’ voices heard, we must start by building relationships with faculty, staff, and administrators. Take the time to meet these people, odds are anyone at Hope is willing to grab coffee! By going into these conversations with humility to listen and understand first, we will gain the respect of being a partner in this work rather than an adversary. 
  3. Do not be afraid to speak up. After understanding what you need, and building relationships, do not shy away from the opportunity to make your voice heard. Hope is a four-year undergraduate institution, there is a reason we do not have graduate programs. Faculty, staff, and administrators are here to support us as undergraduates. Take this to heart and speak your mind about what Hope students need now and going forward. 

Both the world around us and Hope College are changing, in order to prepare ourselves and the institution for what is to come it takes students being prepared to stand up for our experience. If we as a student body can commit to using the platform that we have, Hope will continue to grow into a better institution. Over my four years, I have seen the student voice be used to do incredible things, and I know that there is much more to come. 

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