The Hope Center

About The Hope Center

The Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice is an action research center redefining what it means to be a student-ready college with a national movement centering #RealCollege students’ basic needs. We believe that students are humans first and that their basic needs are central conditions for learning. Basic needs security requires support from an ecosystem establishing equitable, reliable, and consistent access to:

  • nutritious and sufficient food;
  • safe, secure, and adequate housing;
  • healthcare to promote sustained mental and physical well-being;
  • affordable transportation;
  • affordable technology;
  • resources for personal hygiene care; and
  • familial care and related needs.

Our work is guided by five pillars: action research, institutional transformation, policy and advocacy, communications, and sustainability. Correspondingly, our projects have a three-part life cycle. First, using rigorous research, we develop and evaluate creative approaches to solving challenges of practice, policy, and public perception. Second, our scientists work closely with thinkers and doers to ensure that effective implementations are enacted and scaled. Third, we spur systemic change by igniting a fire to engage others in taking advantage of what we have learned. Maximum impact is our ultimate goal.

We employ a strategic approach to staffing and aim to ensure that each of our five core pillars are represented on each project team. Within each team there are diverse perspectives with regard to #RealCollege lived experience, academic training, and practical experience. We deeply believe in collaboration across teams which ensures integration of all perspectives throughout the work and its dissemination.

Our dissemination work is led by an experienced team of communications and marketing professionals who work closely with researchers from a project’s inception rather than jumping on board at the conclusion. We engage our audiences early, introducing a project’s intentions, goals, and activities in public-facing reports, thereby gaining interest and perspectives that we use to shape succeeding steps. We also regularly share our work with project partners in order to ensure that they inform the research questions and activities, get feedback from learnings, and iterate quickly. Furthermore, we draw on both our Advisory Board and Student Leadership Advisory Council to ensure that our research reflects diverse experiences and advice on strategic dissemination strategies.

We have an extensive publication record including dozens of reports, briefs, toolkits, and accessible graphics that are widely used across higher education. Our products enjoy high download rates and are frequently cited by practitioners, policymakers, and researchers. We maintain Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn channels that garner over six million impressions annually. We also issue a semi-monthly newsletter with more than 8,000 subscribers across higher education and the research community.

Our Evolution

Founded in 2013 with a gift from the Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation, we began as the Wisconsin HOPE Lab. At the time of our launch, the higher education community had begun talking about challenges affecting college access and degree completion, particularly racial disparities.  Still, discussions of college costs were limited to rising tuition, conversations about students’ challenges in college centered on remedial education, and institutional practices remained unevaluated.

Over the next five years our research drew the public’s attention to the living costs that make it so hard for students to focus on college. We documented a crisis of food and housing insecurity and worked to address these challenges by improving institutional practice and policy.  Featured in the pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post, and appearing on the Daily Show with Trevor Noah, our efforts attracted more than $12 million in philanthropic support, influenced more than two dozen pieces of state and federal legislation, produced a best-selling book, and spun off a nonprofit that is providing emergency aid to students around the country. We also trained more than 45 students and created new partnerships with researchers, advocates, practitioners, and policymakers around the country to strengthen and amplify our work.

In 2018, we moved our work to Philadelphia and joined Temple University to refocus our strategy to recognize the complexity of the challenges facing today’s students.

Statement of Independence

The Hope Center employs research methods that are scientifically sound and engage in research and related activities that advance our mission and values. The independence of our research and related activities is essential to maintaining the highest standards of integrity and quality. Moreover, this independence is essential to achieving our goals, as it is critical that our statements can be trusted to be the result of credible research.

We engage our funders through a range of stewardship activities, including events, meetings, roundtables, forums, conferences, books and other publications, and specialized communications. We may receive input from funders as well as advocates, policymakers, and other interested stakeholders on different aspects of our research and related activities, but we make the final decisions on conclusions and recommendations. We present our findings completely and objectively, through our reports, as well as expert testimony, conversations with the media, public events, and other forums. We believe that our greatest value to funders is the high quality, independent research we produce.

Note: Our founding director, Sara Goldrick-Rab, is also Chief Strategy Officer for Emergency Aid at Edquity, a private company, where she is a paid consultant and holds stock. The terms of this arrangement have been reviewed and approved by Temple University.


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