The Hope Center

Strategic Plan: 2020-2022

In order to advance the necessary systemic changes to support #RealCollege students’ needs, our work over the next two years will focus on four pillars: action research, engagement and communication, advocacy, and sustainability.

Action Research 

We conduct scientifically rigorous and practice-informed action research that explores poorly understood problems affecting #RealCollege students and examine the efficacy of interventions to support them.

In order to do this, we establish and maintain strategic partnerships that emphasize credible findings and survey methods, pursue action-oriented, stakeholder-engaged research, and advance the field(s) of inquiry.   Our current focus is on research studies that identify areas for improvement and/or evaluate existing practices aimed at addressing #RealCollege issues.

Engagement and Communication

We learn from lived experience and support people on the front lines of #RealCollege work. Our goal is to help them engage in preventive and responsive practices rather than rely solely on reactive and charitable approaches.

To that end, we offer technical assistance to institutional decision-makers, faculty, staff, students, policymakers (local, state, and federal), journalists, community organizations, philanthropists, and advocates. We pay special attention to the open and broad-access colleges and universities serving the vast majority of #RealCollege students, and to minority-serving institutions. Via coalitions and strategic partnerships, we build and implement strategies to provide students viable, effective, and sustainable college and community programming.


We fight for the resources and supports that help #RealCollege students succeed by igniting and sustaining a movement that will eventually move without us. We accomplish this goal by instigating and supporting campaigns for systemic change and informing state and federal policy.

We prioritize influencer engagement (students, policy makers, practitioners). We also seek to build the capacity of students to effectively advocate and engage colleges and legislators.


Our team members demonstrate why #RealCollege matters: we have collectively lived the challenges of navigating government bureaucracy and cash-strapped colleges, experienced the trauma and perils of living without financial stability, and experienced marginalization along nearly every possible line.  We are taking steps towards ensuring the continued alignment of our team with the work that we do.

We are also committed to ensuring that the #RealCollege movement is lasting and deeply ingrained in the field, growing roots beyond the Hope Center’s foundational work.  We seek to grow the next generation of #RealCollege leaders, and building the capacity of institutions to carry on this work.