The Hope Center

The #RealCollege Virtual Journey

Across the nation, college enrollment and retention are falling and students are struggling to meet their basic needs. The #RealCollege Virtual Journey– sponsored by Course Hero, Conagra Brands, and The Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice- is an opportunity to build capacity and to meet this moment of global pandemic, historic inequality, and unprecedented public spending.

This creative re-envisioning of the annual #RealCollege convening, announced in January, offers higher education leaders and their communities critical support. Over a nine-month period beginning with our March 31st free kickoff, the Journey will provide participants with online workshops and engaging activities led by experts and delivered free of charge. 

Participants will engage in three paths, choosing their own adventures:

Path 1: Information and Inspiration. Learn about the latest evidence on basic needs insecurity during the pandemic and be inspired by leaders making change.
Path 2: Learning and Growing Evidence-Based Practices. Engage in developing advising, instruction, and related practices on and off campus to support students’ basic needs.
Path 3: Advocating for Change. Create sustainable systems change so that the higher education ecosystem is forever improved.

This year, #RealCollege will convene a Virtual Journey with topics supported by the latest research evidence. Each month will begin with an inspirational session, leading into workshops that highlight practice and policy to support students experiencing basic needs insecurities. Below is an outline of the Virtual Journey with thematic content curated throughout 2021 (dates to be determined for later events).



Wednesday, May 12, 3:00-5:00 p.m. EST

Path 1: Pregnant Girl, a special event with author Nicole Lynn Lewis

Wednesday, May 19, 3:00 – 4:30 p.m. EST

Path 2: Family Matters: Campus-Based Supports for Students with Familial Responsibilities

Path 3: Generations of Change: State and Federal Policies to Support Parenting Students


Wednesday, June 2, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. EST

Path 1: A Pedagogy of Care:  Reflections with Jesse Stommel of Digital Pedagogy Lab & the #RealCollege SLAC

Wednesday, June 9, 3:00- 4:30 p.m. EST

Path 2: How to Ungrade

Path 3: Investing in Community Colleges

JULY: RACIAL JUSTICE.  The Journey will explore racism and financial trauma with Hope Research Fellow Chloe McKenzie; “Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion in the Basic Needs Movement;” and “Work Requirements, Deservingness, and the Social Safety Net.”

AUGUST: HIGHER ED FINANCE.  Discussions will center on “The State Must Provide,” a special event with author Adam Harris; “Equity Avengers: Presidential Perspectives on Institutional Budgets;”  and “The Free College Movement and Students’ Basic Needs.”

SEPTEMBER: STUDENT ADVOCACY. The voices of students will focus on being “In the Room Where it Happens: Featuring the #RealCollege SLAC;” “Empowering Students to Lead Change;” and “Centering #RealCollege Students in Policy Agendas.”

OCTOBER: RETHINKING FINANCIAL AID. Webinars will delve into “What Affordability and Debt Mean Now: A Conversation with Josh Mitchell and Sara Goldrick-Rab;” “Promising Practices in Emergency Aid;” and “Reforming and Moving Beyond Title IV.”

NOVEMBER: REFLECTING AND PREPARING FOR 2022. This month, we will convene Town Halls to discuss what we learned on the Journey and to prepare for next year.

DECEMBER: CELEBRATION. The Hope Center will offer a Gala celebrating the accomplishments of participants in the #RealCollege movement.

Previous Events

Wednesday, March 31, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. EST

Path 1: Kickoff Event with Soledad O’Brien & Wes Moore (Watch Recording)


Wednesday, April 7, 3:00 – 4:30 p.m. EST

Path 2: Bridging the Gap: Effectively Connecting Students to Basic Needs Supports (Watch Recording, Download Resources)

Path 3: Fighting for Change: Advancing a Federal Agenda for #RealCollege Students (Watch Recording, Resource 1, Resource 2)

Help Fund the Virtual Journey

The Hope Center for College, Community, Justice thanks our presenting sponsors Course Hero and Conagra Brands for generous sponsorship which helps students to achieve their dreams. This adventure is offered in collaboration with Believe in Students. We seek additional partners for the Virtual Journey. To get involved, please contact Chief of Staff Maureen Scully.

Watch Our Kickoff Event

The Journey kicked off on Wednesday, March 31, with a webinar featuring special guests, journalist and documentarian Soledad O’Brien and CEO and social entrepreneur Wes Moore. They were joined by The Hope Center’s President & Founder Sara Goldrick-Rab for a conversation on the implications of #RealCollege 2021: Basic Needs Insecurity During the Ongoing Pandemic and a discussion of our new #RealCollege survey report. The report was presented by Executive Director E. Christine Baker-Smith and Frederick Shegog of West Chester University, a member of The Hope Center’s first Student Leadership Advisory Council.

Sign up to receive more information about the #RealCollege Virtual Journey!