Defining Generosity

As we wrap up the first quarter of the fall semester, I am struck by the excellent work happening at Hope College and what that means for bringing about God’s healing and goodness in the world. During his time on campus last spring, Malcolm Gladwell said it brilliantly: “Our nation is facing three major hurdles that affect its wellbeing: the model of higher education funding is broken; young people today face a mental health crisis; the Church is fractured, and often viewed as irrelevant.” He then beautifully proclaimed that Hope Forward addresses all three. It’s a vision in pursuit of a culture that entails community, access and generosity.

Erin Drews, Hope Forward Coordinator

In my role as program coordinator, I have the distinct privilege of walking alongside the 80 students who are currently receiving the gift of a fully-funded tuition experience. For the first year of my role, I thought about the Hope Forward Scholars and those who champion Hope Forward as “culture catalysts” who propelled that way of existence. However, the more I engage the role I see that this vision is a natural one for Hope College: that the program virtues of community, access and generosity are not prescriptive for Hope College, but rather confirming of an already incredible Hope College.

“Generosity” can be defined as “freely and abundantly giving of oneself.” I am struck by how deeply a culture of gratitude and generosity is already present at Hope; I think about the excellent work being done here that is catalyzing such a culture:
. . . To the professor who spends hours helping a student understand a concept, an ideology, a historical reality, or an equation- you are freely and abundantly giving of yourself.
. . . To those of you who open your offices for discussion, or your homes for an end-of-semester meal- you are freely and abundantly giving of yourself.
. . . To those of you who sit with a student in moments of crises and celebration: you are freely and abundantly giving of yourself.
. . . To those of you who keep our campus clean, maintained and safe: you are freely and abundantly giving of yourself.
. . . To the students who diligently lead Orientation, MSOs, Dance Marathon, and more: you are freely and abundantly giving of yourself.

This isn’t just a future vision. The Hope College community already models and participates in a culture of generosity. Hope Forward is merely a by-product of an existing culture. So perhaps those of us involved with the program are less of culture catalysts, and might be more accurately described as culture amplifiers; that a more realistic description of what we do in the program is elevating an existing culture of community, access and generosity that was created ahead of Hope Forward. The vision is not at odds with Hope College; it is Hope College.

YOU, dear Hope College community, daily invigorate my faith in this vision, and as previously stated I believe that you are why we see the program pillars in action. As an alumna, I can say with full confidence that those along my college journey shaped my lived experience in meaningful ways that I continue to carry with me. My prayer is that as we wrap up month one of the school year, you are reminded of the ways you are already living this vision so beautifully.

Celebrating a Year of Growth and Learning: Hope Forward Program Year-End Recap

They say sequels are never as good as the first, but when it comes to the Hope Forward Program, I adamantly disagree. Year two of the program surpassed all expectations and proved to be nothing short of extraordinary. As the Program Director, I have the privilege of witnessing the profound impact that Hope Forward has had on the lives of our students. In this year-end recap, I am thrilled to share the highlights of our journey with you.

Welcoming New Students and Building Community:

Last August, our 22 sophomores warmly welcomed 36 freshmen to campus. Together, our 58 students bring with them a rich tapestry of cultures, backgrounds and experiences as they represent 11 different countries and 19 U.S. States. Their diverse interests and passions are exemplified by the 22 different majors represented among the 34 students who have already declared a major. Approximately half of our 58 students are students of color, and around 20% are proud first-generation college students. Amidst all their differences, they beautifully find commonality through a desire to bring hope to areas of hopelessness which was a foundational aspect of their Hope Forward application process.

“We [the cohort] are all so different which is beautiful. God has a plan for all of us and it is so evident when I interact with each and every one of them. I have always considered myself a glass half-full kind of person, however, my cohort friends help me see how the glass can not just be half-full but overflowing.”

– Freshman Student

Another remarkable characteristic they have in common is their lifelong, covenantal relationship with the college. These students are receiving the gift of a college education while committing to generous, annual giving back to Hope after they graduate. This distinctive model, known as Hope Forward, fosters a deep sense of gratitude and reciprocity within the community.

“The Hope Forward Program helped me find a community that inspires me to work hard and that gives me a lot of support. It helps me to get motivated and to remember that we can always share good things and put effort into the betterment of a community.”

– Freshman Student

Learning Together

Throughout their time on campus, Hope Forward students engage in a comprehensive program designed to prepare and equip them for a lifetime of positive impact rooted in gratitude and generosity. The program, spanning from orientation to graduation, offers co-curricular learning opportunities aligned with the program pillars of community, access, and generosity. Guided by our dedicated team and strong campus partnership, students cultivate virtues such as gratitude, generosity, curiosity, and hope through integrated and applied learning, habitual practice, mutual accountability, and meaningful connections with virtuous role models.

“Hope Forward gave me a community that was catalytic and accepting. It reminded me that I was here on purpose and for a purpose in a deep and impactful way. I learned to love amidst fear and transition, to learn from my peers, and to empower my drive for change by leaning on the love of others.”

– Freshman Student

A few highlights of this past year include: 

  • Shared meals with Hope administrators like President Scogin and CFO, Tom Bylsma, where students learned more about the innovative funding model of Hope Forward and its potential impacts on higher education
  • The creation of a “Cohort Community Covenant” and an art collaborative project which provided an opportunity for students to articulate their commitment to personal growth and investment in the cohort experience
  • The development of a personal portfolio which gives students an opportunity to reflect on a series of prompts related to the learning outcomes throughout the year
  • A cohort-hosted banquet that empowered each student to use their gifts and talents to show gratitude to their invited guests of honor
  • A weekly seminar during which the cohort collectively defined the pillars and then individually presented on what they love in connection to the pillars
  • Participation in the innovation foundation workshop led by the Office of Possibilities
  • And, last but certainly not least, the Catalyst Summit when students shared a meal with Malcolm Gladwell, debuted their cohort collaborative art collection, shared personal stories and experiences with thought-leaders, and celebrated being a foundational part of Hope’s big vision

Student Investment and Growth

The program is still in its pilot phase and we continue to learn from students every day, but early indications tell us that our students are invested in their education and are thriving at Hope. We are thrilled that every single one of our freshmen are planning to return to Hope this fall giving us a 100% freshman-to-sophomore retention rate. I also want to highlight the remarkable achievement of our students – our Hope Forward students are performing academically on par with their peers (dispelling the notion that eliminating tuition reduces a student’s academic investment), almost all (97%) of our students say they feel like they can positively contribute to Hope College, 89% are involved in one or more co-curriculars (which research tell us only elevates classroom learning), and every single one of our students report that they are leading a purposeful and meaningful life. To me, these stand in stark contrast to the narrative we often hear about young adults post COVID. 

We also had 100% of our students report typically exemplifying and demonstrating the virtue of gratitude and 97% typically exemplifying and demonstrating generosity. It gets me so excited to think about a generation full of young people with strong virtues and unshakable character running fearlessly and uninhibited toward a hurting world. 

Looking Ahead

“Hope Forward makes me feel like I am a part of something bigger than myself.”

– Freshman Student

Before we start year three, I want to end this year expressing immense gratitude for this big, bold vision that our community gets to embark on together. Hope Forward is creating a multi-generational community where we humbly receive and then, in turn, get to give out of abundance and gratitude so that future generations can do the same. Proverbs 11:24 says, “One gives freely, yet grows all the richer.” Hope Forward’s cycle of giving and communal investment makes our community rich; rich in love and grace, which was first given to us through the gift of Jesus and points us back to Him. 

This fall, we’re looking forward to welcoming an additional 24 Hope Forward students into this rich community and we anticipate nothing less but continued learning and growth together. 

If you would like to learn more about the Hope Forward student experience and hear student stories, please visit

Moving from Contract to Covenant

Peter Baldwin had a lightbulb moment and started seeing Hope Forward in a whole new light.

The president and owner of AMDG Architects, while munching on his box lunch, was listening to the Rev. Trygve Johnson make the Christian case for Hope Forward at a lunch-and-learn session at Hope’s recent Catalyst Summit.

The Catalyst Summit on campus, March 2023.

Johnson, the Hinga-Boersma Dean of the Chapel and Hope College’s campus ministries leader, was explaining that the Hope Forward funding model is rooted in God’s grace. Hope Forward is a revolutionary plan where students fund their education through gifts after graduation rather than paying for college through tuition and debt up front.

To demonstrate his point, Johnson referred to the Bible’s parable of the landowner who hired people throughout the day to work his land. At the end of the day, he paid each worker the same wage, whether they worked long or short hours. The workers who worked longer grumbled because they didn’t think the wage was fair.

“That’s the rub with God’s generosity,” Johnson said. “A generous gift isn’t fair. A generous gift is shocking. It can be overwhelming, even upsetting. Because a gift is not about merit. We don’t earn a gift. By definition a gift is something we can only receive. The sustaining energy of the Christian faith is not what we do for God, but what God has done for us.”

Generosity is what Hope Forward is all about.
Hope Forward’s plan to cover the cost of tuition for every student means the college is taking a transactional exchange where students pay tuition in return for an education and turning it into something life transforming, Johnson explained.

“Moving from contract to covenant is a rich idea,” said Baldwin, whose architectural firm has done many projects on campus including two phases of Cook Village, van Andel Huys der Hope Campus Ministries center, the Future of Work renovation of the lower level of DeWitt for the Boerigter Center for Calling and Career, and the Jim Heeringa Athletic Center. “What I find inspiring is Hope College’s why. Hope College is in the business of shaping souls, not just another liberal arts college creating a financial model that works so they don’t close their doors.”

Peter Baldwin (right) on campus for a scholarship luncheon.

When students’ tuition is covered by generous donors, it changes everything, Johnson explained. Students are free to choose a career that will make a difference in the world instead of choosing a job only to repay debt. This creates a circle of giving, where those who have received the gift of tuition want to give back so others have the same opportunity. It’s what Jesus said in Matthew 10:8 — “Freely you have received, now freely give.”

Viewing Hope Forward through this lens changed everything for Baldwin.

“I began to see that Hope Forward was not just a strategy to rethink access to higher education and a mechanism to generate a financially sustainable model,” said Baldwin.

“Hope Forward is a powerful expression of Hope’s fundamental purpose — a way to operationalize our mission of living into a culture of generosity and giving that goes with God’s salvation plan.”

While Baldwin fully endorses Hope Forward’s goal to provide access to a transformational Christian liberal arts education for all students, regardless of their ability to pay, he is realistic about the challenges ahead. It will require tremendous effort to do the fundraising on the front end to make it work.

But Johnson said Hope Forward literally means Hope College is “putting our money where our mouth is about our Christian mission.”

“The Christian mission is why we’re doing this, not just for our sustainability, not just for affordability, but because we are a people who have received the gift of God and we want to live in such a way that we’re passing that forward to the next generation,” Johnson said. “And for a suspicious generation right now, that’s the story that they need to hear about God.”

“A Good Circle”

This spring, Malcolm Gladwell visited campus for the Catalyst Summit. While he was at Hope, Gladwell interviewed President Matt Scogin and Hope Forward students for his podcast, Revisionist History. The episode is called “A Good Circle” and we’re honored to be a part of the conversation about changing the funding model of higher education. Listen anytime at

“A Good Circle” Transcript

Podcast audio:


Malcolm Gladwell:
Hey, Revisionist History listeners, Malcolm here. Before we get started, I wanted to update you on a few things. First thing, this August 24th, the Revisionist History season begins in earnest. Eight old school episodes in a row. The little narrative jewel boxes you’ve come to love. We’ve been feeding you little bits and pieces so far this season, but this is the main event. At the heart of it is a six part series on guns and violence that I think is my favorite thing we’ve ever done. Weird, moving, funny, heartbreaking. So mark your calendars, August 24th is when it all happens.

And by the way, if you want to get that whole miniseries early and binge it all at once without ads, you can just by becoming a Pushkin+ subscriber. In fact, just 6.99 a month, or 39.99 a year, gets you every one of the Pushkin shows early and ad free. Just go to the Revisionist History show page in Apple Podcasts or to sign up.

And one last thing, speaking of things you should binge, the latest season of our true crime masterpiece, Lost Hills, has dropped. The new season explores the legacy of Malibu’s Dark Prince Miki Dora. Miki was a surfer known for his style, grace, and aggression, who ruled the Malibu beaches from the 1950s to 1970s, celebrated for his rebellious spirit. He was also a conman who led the FBI on a seven-year manhunt around the world. Believe me, this is a show worth a listen, so sign up for Pushkin+ and you can binge this one too.

Matt Scogin was working on Wall Street, 80 hours a week, making good money, happily married, a small town boy from Michigan made good, when he began to have a change of heart.

Matt Scogin:
I went through a period of my life, a mini existential crisis. My dad died in 2013. He had a cancer called multiple myeloma. He was only 60. And then just two years after that, my mom passed away from a different kind of cancer. She had breast cancer. And it kind of sent me into a period of life where I just felt like I love my work, it’s interesting, it’s intellectually stimulating, I love the people with whom I work, but I also felt this sense of like, at the end of the day, I’m showing up to work every day to help a bank make more money. I went through a season of pretty intense prayer and discernment and just kind of feeling like, I think I’m supposed to be doing something else.

Malcolm Gladwell:
Scogin was on the board of the small Christian liberal arts school he’d gone to as an undergraduate, a place called Hope College, on the shores of Lake Michigan. And just as his life was turning upside down, the school’s president announced he was leaving. Scogin says that when he heard the news, he had an intense feeling that this was the job he was supposed to do. He thought of the Mark Twain quote, “The two most important days in your life are the day you’re born and the day you find out why.” Scogin had no academic experience. He was a ridiculous long shot. But slowly, he inched forward in the process, and as he did, he realized that, if it was actually going to happen, if he were really going to be the president of a college, he couldn’t do what every other president was doing.

Matt Scogin:
I had a couple of pretty formative experiences. There was a moment when I was on an airplane on a business trip and I was flying back to New York from California, I think, and we were flying into JFK. And I’m like half asleep on the airplane and the pilot comes on and he says, “We’re at 33,000 feet and we’re beginning our descent into JFK.” 33,000, at the time, was the price of Hope’s tuition, and I just got this visual image in my head of 33,000 going to zero.

And then it was three weeks later and I was having dinner with a friend and we were just talking about life, and I told him that I was thinking about applying for this job, and he asked me about Hope College, and he asked me about what I saw as the challenges in higher ed, and I, of course, mentioned the cost. And he just very sort of flippantly, and without thinking, he said, “Well, no one should have to pay for Hope.” And then he repeated it, “No one should have to pay for Hope.” And he meant it as a joke, I think, and we both laughed, but as I was laughing, like I realized, “Dang, he just said something profoundly true. No one should have to pay for Hope.”

Malcolm Gladwell:
My name is Malcolm Gladwell. You’re listening to Revisionist History, my podcast about things overlooked and misunderstood. Over the years on this podcast, we have talked about the strange goings-on in higher education, ridiculously fancy amenities, the LSAT, the absurd US News rankings, multi-billion dollar endowments. This episode is about a very different kind of strange goings-on, Matt Scogin’s radical experiment, nobody should have to pay for Hope.

Hope is in a little town called Holland, just west of Grand Rapids, which is called Holland because Dutch immigrants settled there. The area still has a lot of tidy Dutch practicality. The big local employers are the furniture makers, Herman Miller and Haworth. The campus is right in the middle of town, a big beautiful church at the center. I got a campus tour from a towering Nigerian student with the magnificently Nigerian first name of Marvelous. I sat in a campus coffee shop listening to a high-spirited back and forth that began with the movies and ended with scripture. The school was having a day long conference to explain to the community what they were trying to do. A student spoke first, a young woman named Madison, a little nervous in front of the crowd. She’d made some of the art hanging on the walls around the room.

Hi everyone. Good evening and thank you for attending what I believe is a wonderful artistic representation of Hope Forward as not only a vision, but a reality. My name is Madison and I have the honor of belonging to the inaugural Hope Forward cohort.

Malcolm Gladwell:
Hope Forward was the name Scogin gave to his experiment. Madison had made a print of a willow tree that she said symbolized what the school had done for her.

Because of this gift, I feel free to pursue any area of study without the burden of excessive debt. This means I am free to care about my community here and later, because I am and will be passionate about what I do.

Malcolm Gladwell:
Then the writer Mitch Albom came to the podium. Albom was actually the reason I was there. He emailed me out of the blue one day and told me about what was happening in Holland. He drove over from Detroit where he lives and kicked things off with a short talk about why he’s a Hope College believer.

Mitch Albom:
Yeah, I guess I’m here in multiple capacities. I’m sort of like a parent, and proud to be, and I’m going to share with you for a couple of minutes how that came to be and why I do believe that this model works, because I have seen it in action many times in my life. And in fact, the latter part of my professional life has kind of been dedicated to this.

Malcolm Gladwell:
The model he was referring to was President Scogin’s Hope Forward, his grand experiment.

Mitch Albom:
So I had honestly not been that charitable a person in the first part of my career. Not because I was against it, I think I was just like many young people, I was very wrapped up in my own success and my own ambition. And then I got involved, as some of you’re probably aware, with an old professor of mine who was dying from Lou Gehrig’s disease named Morrie Schwartz, and I visited with him every Tuesday.

Malcolm Gladwell:
Tuesdays with Morrie was album’s most famous book. It came out in 1997. It’s one of the best-selling memoirs of all time.

Mitch Albom:
I noticed that when people would come in and visit with him, very quickly the conversation would change. They would come in trying to cheer him up, because he was dying from this terminal illness, but within a couple of minutes he would start asking them about their work, their love life, whatever, and an hour later they’d come out in tears and they’d say, “I tried to cheer him up, and next thing I know I’m talking to him and he’s asking me questions, and then he’s really asking me questions, and then I’m really [inaudible 00:08:41], and I’m crying. I tried to cheer him up, he ended up cheering me up, he ended up comforting me.”

And I asked him, finally, after witnessing this so many times, “I don’t get it. You’re the one who’s dying. Why don’t you just say, ‘Let’s not talk about your problems, let’s talk about my problems?'” And he said, “Mitch, why would I ever take from people like that? Taking just makes me feel like I’m dying. Giving makes me feel like I’m living.” It’s a profound little sentence. It also rhymes, so it’s easy to remember. Giving makes you feel like living, and I have never forgotten that moment, nor have I ever forgotten that sentiment.

Malcolm Gladwell:
A small Christian college, a student talking about a willow tree, a best-selling writer of inspirational books introduces the rhyming catchphrase, “Giving makes you feel like living.” If the cynic in you is bubbling to the surface right now, I understand. Because these aren’t the kinds of things we expect to hear on college campuses. What about the fancy new building opening? The expansion of the endowed prestigious center for this and that? The glittering credentials of the incoming class? But by the end of the evening, I kind of wished every school sounded like this.

Malcolm Gladwell:
Imagine that you had never heard of higher education before. You had been living on a desert island somewhere. And suddenly, once you finished Desert Island High School, your parents decided what you needed was an American college degree.

So you show up on this thing called a campus. And you ask your hosts, “What am I to you?”

And they say, “We think of you as a student, kind of. But also as a customer, because this whole thing is going to cost you a lot of money, and we need to get paid.”

“How much?” You ask.

“Well, it depends. Like whether you’re good at things like fencing or rowing, and how much your parents make. But chances are, you’ll have to borrow a lot to pay for your education.”

So you say, “Oh, so I’m really like someone with a big mortgage. I’m a debtor.”

And they say, “Sure. But once you’ve graduated, we’re going to call you every year to ask for donations on the grounds that you are now a member of our community.”

Your head is spinning at this point. “Oh, really? What are those donations for?”

“Well, it’s for this thing we invented called an endowment, which is a big pile of cash that sits with a money manager in New York, which we use as a symbol of how important we are.”

So you say, “Wait, I’m a student, a customer, a debtor, and an investor in a Wall Street hedge fund. Are all businesses in the United States this complicated?”

And they say “No, just higher education.”

This arrangement struck Matt Scogin as deeply weird. He was a banker. He came from a world where financial arrangements had precise definitions: gross sales, net revenue, EBITDA, earnings before interest taxes and amortization. He was an outsider to this world.

He didn’t think like a college president. He doesn’t even look like a college president. He was 39 when he was hired, but looks even younger. I’m short and skinny, he’s shorter and skinnier.

He has red hair and oversized ears, and looks, and this reference will be lost to all of you under the age of 50, a little like Ron Howard in Happy Days. Later, when we were chatting with a group of students, I asked what they call him.

Matt Scogin:
The summer I got here I started saying, “You should call me Matt.” Because my name is Matt.

And then there was like an intervention. The dean of students came, and a couple of other people came into my office and they said, “You can’t have the students call you by your first name. It’s disrespectful to the office of the president.”

So I said, okay. So they call me President Scogin to my face. They call me, who knows what. They call me, Sco-Daddy.

Speaker 1:
Yeah. Sco-Daddy.

Matt Scogin:
The Scoges, Scogin.

Malcolm Gladwell:
Sco-Daddy. There aren’t a lot of Sco-Daddies in the ranks of America’s college presidents.

When they picked you, was there a sense that they were taking a chance?

Matt Scogin:
Yes. Well, maybe. There was definitely a sense they were doing something unconventional. So they were hiring a young, non-academic. But it was coming from this premise of the board wanted to, a recognition that something needs to be done in higher education. We need to try something different.

And so they hired me and basically said, you can do anything you want except the status quo. We’re hiring you to do something different.

Malcolm Gladwell:
He took the job, moved into a big house near the church in the middle of campus, and started going to the cafeteria and talking to students. Student, customer, debtor, investor, what effect, he wondered, did this have on them?

Matt Scogin:
And I have a handful of questions that I love asking students. I like asking the same questions over and over again, because I get compare and contrast answers. And one of the questions I always ask is, what do you want to do after you graduate? And I always use the word want.

And what I get often as a response is, what I want to do is different than what I feel like I have to do. And I’ll get students say, “I want to do Doctors Without Borders.” Or, “I want to do Teach for America.” Or the Peace Corps, or some ministry. But I’ve got $50,000 of student loan debt, so I’m going to become a, whatever. Consultant to pay off my student loan debt. And then I’ll pursue the impact I feel like I want to have.

Malcolm Gladwell:
It seemed to Scogin that you can’t do both. You can’t ask a student to engage in the pursuit of truth, and at the same time have them wake up in the middle of the night with a sense of dread. Hope as an accounting program, and Scogin was a big fan of accounting. But he felt the way things were, accounting would always win out over philosophy, which didn’t seem right.

Matt Scogin:
I actually think students don’t come to college with a life plan. They come to college with questions, thoughts, and lots of questions about their purpose. And it might be the case that studying philosophy, or studying the classics, is precisely how you’re going to find your purpose.

And yet, if you’re coming with $50,000 of debt, you might get skewed into, you might might feel nudged into studying accounting. And therefore maybe miss something that’s in your purpose.

Malcolm Gladwell:
Okay, back to your college search after Desert Island High. You come to America and what you discover on your college tour is how strangely similar a lot of colleges are.

Williams College looks like Amherst, which in turn looks like William and Mary, which looks like a smaller version of the University of Virginia. Everybody wants to be the same thing; the same look and the same business model. Find as many full-paying students as they can, and charge you as much tuition as they can get away with.

Why are all the colleges the same? My dad taught at the University of Waterloo in Southern Ontario, and they had what they called a co-op program, with a college arranged with local employers to hire students during their off-term.

Everybody was on co-op. To give you a flavor of how it works, I asked a student named Spencer, who just graduated from Waterloo, to give me a breakdown of his finances. This is what Spencer told me.

Total four-year costs. Tuition plus room and board were $122,000. In that time he did six co-op terms working with a government organization, and several firms in his field. And they paid him a total of $81,000.

So his overall cost, out of pocket, for getting an engineering degree was 40,000. That’s not bad. Plus, and I’m quoting here from his email, “I’ll add that a good thing is that the majority of my classmates were graduating with a job lined up due to the co-op program and industry connections.”

Now, do I think co-op programs could work everywhere, and solve every problem? No, of course not. But the University of Waterloo has been running this program for almost 70 years. It’s a huge success. You would think, wouldn’t you, that versions of the idea would’ve spread everywhere by now. That every school that has a problem with students graduating with lots of debt, which by the way is nearly every school, would’ve experimented with ways of connecting with local businesses to give their students work experience, and lighten their debt burden.

Has it happened? No. Why? Because college presidents have their heads in the clouds.

Matt Scogin:
If you kind of look at the trajectory of higher education, it’s just not going to end well. This trajectory of tuition goes up by three to 5% every year. It’s just not going to work. And so this sense of, somebody has to do something. At the end of the day, the thing I love most about this place is our name, Hope.

Hope, by definition, means that we believe problems are solvable. And that’s what we try to prepare our students to be. Hope-bringers, people who go out in the world and run toward. Not away, but run toward the biggest challenges they can find. And that’s why we exist.

And we felt like, and the board felt like, who better than a place called Hope to run toward this big societal challenge? Which is the funding model of higher education.

Malcolm Gladwell:
So Scogin made a radical decision. Let’s make it so students don’t have to think about money at all during their four years of college, and put in place a pay-it-forward model, where you give back to the college after you’ve graduated. That’s the program that Scogin calls Hope-Forward.

To apply, you write an essay describing an area of hopelessness to which you want to bring hope. They started small. After the first two years, they have a total of 58 students in the program. The goal is to enroll a hundred freshmen annually within the next few years, and keep the program growing until it covers everyone.

Matt Scogin:
If you’re coming in, you don’t pay anything. You don’t pay anything for tuition. You sign a, we call it a covenant. It’s basically a commitment. I sign it on behalf of the college, and then the student signs it. So we’re entering into this sort of covenantal relationship. Not a transactional agreement.

It’s not a contract, it’s not a legal contract. But it’s this relationship with mutual commitment. And the commitment we’re making as a institution is we’re saying, we’re going to give you a great education, and then launch you into a life of impact afterwards.

And the commitment the student is making is, they’re going to take their education seriously, and then they’re going to give. They’re going to give something to the college every year after they graduate. We don’t specify an amount, we don’t suggest an amount, nothing like that.

Because we want it to truly be a gift. A gift that’s given out of generosity. And we don’t want it to feel like it’s a different flavor of a student loan bill. We’re trying to move away from a system that’s based on bill paying and replace it with a system that’s based on gift-giving.

So that the relationship with students is not a transactional one at all, but rather a relationship based at its core around generosity and gratitude.

Malcolm Gladwell:
The math behind the pay-it-forward system is, to say the least, daunting. Problem number one is the transition period. A school like Hope takes in about $55 million in tuition. If you say to your students, don’t pay anything until later, then you have to come up with 55 million every year until the pay-it-forward money comes trickling in. If Hope-forward covered everyone, the school would need about a billion dollars to handle that transition period. Problem number two is what happens after the transition period. How do you know that Hope Forward graduates will give back an amount equal to the cost of their education? Scogin freely admits he doesn’t.

Matt Scogin:
Some may give far less than that, some may give way more than that. I think that’s another reason why we decided to not put a specific amount on it. If we say, “You’ve made a commitment to give and we suggest this amount in order to pay off what you would’ve paid through tuition,” well, then people would give that amount presumably. But by not putting an amount, some people may give way more than they would’ve paid through tuition and others will give less.

And I think what this model does is it gives us, as an institution, we’re highly incentivized to help our students be successful. The more successful they are, the more opportunities they’ll have to give. And likewise for our students, it’s kind of like the onus is on them. When they’re in their earnings years, then it’s up to them to determine how important their education was in launching them into their career. And they’re then paying them what they think this was worth. And I think it’s up to us then to make the education so valuable that they’re grateful for it after they graduate.

Malcolm Gladwell:
You are sailing into the unknown.

Matt Scogin:
Oh, totally.

Malcolm Gladwell:
Is Matt Scogin crazy? Maybe. But I have to say that I’m an optimist on Hope Forward. First, I think that Scogin is right, that the success of the program depends on the school convincing its graduates that their education was worth something. Although it’s early, the evidence so far is encouraging. The students admitted into Hope Forward as a group have slightly lower academic credentials coming into the school than the rest of their freshman class. But after their first year, they’re outperforming their non Nope Forward peers. There’s something different about your attitude towards school once you’re inside the gratitude generosity loop.

Second thing, most of the students at Hope grew up in the church, and this is how a church works. You don’t pay church tuition at the door. Sometimes churches encourage you to tithe a 10th of your income, but most times you just give whatever you can. And the congregation and the preacher trust in God that whatever comes in from the offering on Sunday morning will cover the expenses for the rest of the week.

I remember one of the things that President Scogin said was that were trying to fund higher education the way that we fund churches, which is through crowdfunding. And I felt like that metaphor helps it make a lot more sense to me.

Malcolm Gladwell:
I met with a group of Hope Forward students at one point. This was a sophomore named Olivia. Pay it forward made sense to her, conceptually.

The idea of a church is you give what you can, when you can, and you give because you want to and because you believe in the mission of the church. And I feel like that’s a really great metaphor that helps me understand what we’re doing here and what the purpose of it is, so it’s the same idea.

Malcolm Gladwell:
Madison was part of the group too. The same Madison who spoke at the Mitch Albom reception.

I feel like once you’re given, someone’s generous towards you, it is so much easier to be generous towards others. And that’s also how I think of God’s love. When I experience God’s love through other people, it’s so much easier for me to share that love with some other people, with other people. And I just feel like the whole thing, it’s meant to be contagious, so generosity is easier when someone has shown generosity towards you.

Malcolm Gladwell:
Third thing, and maybe the most important thing, why do we assume that giving out of the spirit of giving is hard? This is a little bit of a tangent, but those of you who are regular listeners to Revisionist History will know the special antipathy I have for Princeton University. A school with 8,478 students and an endowment of $36 billion. Princeton’s endowment is so large that in nine of the last 11 years its investment earnings had been greater than its entire operating budget. To give you a flavor of this, and forgive me because this gets me so riled up. In 2021, Princeton made a $3.77 billion return on its endowment. But the school’s annual budget was just under 2 billion, meaning they could cover all their expenses just on the check they get at the end of the year from their wealth managers on Wall Street and still have $2 billion left.

In the previous episode, I handed out the first of the Revisionist History prizes, which honor extraordinary performances by elite college administrators. The inaugural prize was the George Santos Memorial Award for Egregiously Deceptive Self-Promotion, which went to Columbia for their brazen manipulation of their US news rankings. Well, I have yet another prize to award, the Perpetual Motion Award, for the school that comes closest to running on its own power forever. And the clear winner here is Princeton.

I did a little blog post about this and let me quote from myself here. “Princeton could let in every student for free. The university administrators could tell the US government and all of its funding agencies, ‘It’s cool we got this.’ They could take out the cash registers in the cafeteria, hand out free parking to all visitors, give away Princeton sweatshirts on Nassau Street, and fire their entire accounts receivable staff and their entire fundraising staff tomorrow. They could say to every one of the hardworking professors on their staff, ‘You never have to spend even a second writing a grant proposal again. Free at last, free at last.'”

But here’s the thing. Even though by any rational measure Princeton no longer needs to raise any more money, the alumni of Princeton still give money to Princeton. A higher percentage of Princeton graduates give money back to their school than any school in the country. A Wall Street guy named James Yeh in fact just gave Princeton so many millions of dollars that Princeton opened a brand new residence hall called, wait for it, Yeh College.

Speaker 2:
Yeh College will help advance the expansion of the student body so that additional high-achieving students will realize the benefits of a Princeton education, enhance the diversity and vitality of our campus, and go on to contribute to society after graduation.

Malcolm Gladwell:
This is complete gibberish. The sense of community that a college gives to its students has nothing to do with the architectural design of the dorms. This is the way the Four Seasons talks about a new hotel. But here’s the thing, Mr. Yeh, a very, very smart man who graduated with a physics degree from Princeton and went on to make many, many billions on Wall Street, believes it to be true. So true in fact that he got into his Bentley, loaded up the trunk with coles, and drove them down I-95 to Newcastle. And if you don’t understand that reference, may I refer you to Mr. Google.

My point is we have plenty of evidence that smart people will give huge amounts of money to their alma maters for the stupidest of reasons. Why do we find it hard to believe smart people will give small amounts of money to their alma maters? For the best of reasons. Or to put it a little more charitably, maybe Mitch Albom was right, giving makes you feel like living.

Matt Scogin was sitting in on my meeting with the students. He didn’t speak until the very end.

Matt Scogin:
There’s this line in Matthew, it says, “Freely you have received, not freely give.” I think there’s this crazy sense in higher education where most people know that not everyone has access to a great education, but there’s this sense in which it must be the case that ultimately those who do get access to a great education somehow deserve it, like this meritocracy. And it just feels like that’s meritocracy gone totally off the rails. At the end of the day, a Christian doesn’t believe that anyone deserves a good life. If we really got what we deserved, we’d all be screwed. A Christian believes that anything we have that’s good is a gift of unmerited favorite from God.

And I think what you’re hearing from these students is this profound sense of, “We’re ready to just live into that.” I heard somebody once described generosity as this mindset of circulation. Like you take a book out of the library and you know it’s not yours. You’re just going to read the book and then you’re going to give it back to the library so that somebody else can read it. And I think that’s the way a Christian ought to think about everything we have, everything we own. God gave us stuff just so that we could circulate it. God blesses Abraham in the Old Testament and He says very clearly why He blesses Abraham. He says, “I’ve blessed you so that you can be a blessing.”

And I think that’s the way Christians ought to view everything we have. Everything we have is this unmerited gift, and then we’re just going to radically give it to the world so that we can be a blessing with the ways we’ve been blessed. And I’m putting words in your mouth, but I feel like I heard that from your stories in a pretty powerful way. You guys are amazing. Thanks.

Malcolm Gladwell:
Here, by way of contrast, is a passage in the commencement speech of the President of Harvard, Drew Faust, in 2018. She has the entire graduating class in front of her. Her goal is to give them words to inspire them on their journey into the greater world. And then she starts listing the unprecedented headwinds at Harvard the institution had faced as it sought to educate the very best and the brightest.

Speaker 3:
We have faced a political and policy environment in increasingly hostile to expertise and skeptical about higher education. The unprecedented endowment tax passed last December will, we estimate, impose on us a levy next year equivalent to $2,000 per student.

Malcolm Gladwell:
Holy Toledo, they have dared to tax our $56 billion endowment. I don’t know, under the circumstances I’d rather ride with Sco-daddy.

I want to play for you the end of Mitch Albom’s speech at the Hope College reception. He stood at the front of the room, slight and unprepossessing, big head of black hair, casually dressed. People are standing and milling around and eating canapes. And he starts to talk about how this whole idea of giving makes you feel like living taught to him by Maurice Schwartz slowly took over his life. He started a scholarship fund that grew and grew, then a charity to work with the homeless. And then finally the project that has occupied him ever since.

Mitch Albom:
And in 2010, I heard about the earthquake in Haiti and I’d never been to Haiti, probably couldn’t find it that easily on a map.

Malcolm Gladwell:
He heard that the earthquake had destroyed an orphanage. So he got on a plane and flew to Haiti.

Mitch Albom:
And what I saw there will never leave my mind. I’m sure many of you remember that earthquake. It was devastating. In 45 seconds, it killed nearly 3% of Haiti’s population. Of its population. Can you imagine in America, that would be about 9 million people dead. And left about 10% of its population homeless.

Malcolm Gladwell:
The orphanage was in ruins.

Mitch Albom:
And the toilets were a little bit more than holes in the ground, and prior to that were fields where kids would use rocks to bang on other rocks so that the rats would run away if they had to go to the bathroom at night and then they would use the rock for toilet paper. So we had our work cut out for us. And I began to go back with some guys from Detroit and we had an idea to fix the place up.

Now the thing is, what stuck with me the most were the kids, the kids who were there and their smiles and their joy and their faith and their belief that things could get better. Those kids were the reason that I came back and came back and came back and came back. Every single month since February of 2010, for the last 13 years I’ve been in Haiti at that orphanage. And we began to build it up with guys I bought down from Detroit. Again, all I did was ask. I didn’t have to pay anybody, they all came as volunteers. And we built the first kitchen and the first showers and all things that didn’t exist there before. And we began to grow, we got bigger and we got bigger and we got bigger.

Malcolm Gladwell:
One of America’s most successful writers has been going to Haiti, a place that the rest of the world has all but given up on. He’s gone every month for 13 years with a group of his friends from Detroit driving back and forth from the airport in an armored car because much of the country is controlled by criminal gangs. And why does he keep going? Because he discovered, quite by accident, that giving makes you feel like living. When Albom heard about Matt Scogin’s experiment, he told some of the students at his orphanage about it and they applied, answered the same essay questions as everyone else.

Mitch Albom:
Our kids with these new facilities have learned from the very beginning that they are there to help one another. And so we found it funny when in the application process they ask, what is your community involvement? And the kids who filled out the application said, “Mr. Mitch, like what are we supposed to put? What does this mean? Community involvement.” And I said, “Well, it means what do you do for others?” And I said, “Let’s talk about what you do for others.” And 15 minutes later we were still listing things because every day our kids take care of the other kids. Our kids are their big brothers and big sisters. They are their sources of caring and food and cleansing and washing and feeding and dressing and taking to school and watching out for one another. And we go out into the community and help with the streets or when we used to be able to travel around, our kids would go to a place where they had premature babies were born and they would hold the babies because nobody ever held these children and they had no human contact. Our kids, most of whom have no parents, come from places where in many cases we have to invent birth certificates because we literally don’t know where they came from, how old they are, or who their parents are and these kids are holding other little babies to make them feel welcome in the world.

I have seen their ability and their desire to give back. So when they filled out that application, it was easy to say what they’ve done for others. All of our kids know, they don’t even have to agree to it because it’s part of our DNA, that when they’re done with college and we send all of our kids to college or graduate school our first one just got accepted to medical school last month and we’re going to have our first doctor. So if you can be like Jewish dad, proud of a Haitian doctor, there we are. And we find money to pay for it. But they know that the first thing they do when they graduate is they come back to the orphanage and they work for two years giving back at the orphanage from the place that gave to them. That is the concept. That is the concept of Hope Forward.

So our kids were living this concept. They had to break it to you, Matt, but it ain’t original. Our kids have been living this concept from the very beginning. And speaking of kids, I can’t see so well, but you may have noticed some of those pictures a little earlier.

Malcolm Gladwell:
On the screen behind Albom was a series of photographs. There were two teen girls together and then a boy and then another teenage boy flexing his muscles.

Mitch Albom:
All of them last June graduated from our school. And what is always the best moment that we have at our orphanage, and all of them now are right here at Hope and they’re in this room right here. They’re already going to kill me for showing those photos. So I’m not going to make them come up and be acknowledged in the front, but they’re here Somenza and Kiki and Teta and JJ. And if we have any luck, we’ll have two more or maybe even three more coming here next year.

Malcolm Gladwell:
So is Matt Scogin crazy? I don’t think so. I think everyone else is crazy for giving up on the idea that giving makes you feel like living. I wish you could have been there in that room listening to Mitch Albom and Madison and Matt Scogin and all the other revolutionaries in Holland, Michigan, who believe that gratitude and generosity can help us rebuild what is broken.

Mitch Albom:
So we’re very proud to be associated with a program that is embodying the very belief that we teach at our orphanage to Have Faith Haiti Orphanage that you are responsible for one another in this world. And from the minute our kids arrive, they know that somebody has taken responsibility for them. And from the moment they leave us, they know that they have to take responsibility for somebody else. That is a good circle and we’re proud to be a part of it.

Malcolm Gladwell:
This episode of Revisionist History was produced by Ben Denaf Hafry and Lee Mengistu. This is actually Lee’s last show with us as she’s moved on to the world of audio fiction. If you want to hear one of Lee’s great accomplishments on Revisionist, check out our Little Mermaid series. Lee, we will miss you. Jacob Smith, Kiara Powell, make up the rest of our producing team. Our show runner is Peter Clowny. Original scoring by Louis Scarra. Fact checking by Kashaw Williams and Talia Amlin. Mastering by Flon Williams. And engineering by Nina Lawrence. Additional recording by Jonathan Fagel and Ben Ugama. Special thanks to Matt Scogin, Jason Cash, Mary Remenschneider, and everyone who welcomed us at Hope College.

I’m Malcolm Gladwell.

What Other People Are Asking About Hope Forward

This blog post is part of a series. Read the introduction and Meet Some of Our Hope Forward Students, Why Apply to Hope Forward?, What Connections Are Hope Forward Students Making on Campus?, What Are Some Challenges to Being a Hope Forward Student? and How has Hope Forward Changed Your View of Generosity in Higher Education?

Audience member: Hi, everybody. It’s such a pleasure to hear from all of you, to see your smiling faces, and to hear your stories. …
I’m curious about a certain aspect of education that I know everybody’s talking about right now, or they should be if they’re not, and that something is experiential education, right?

So we look at learning that’s happening in classrooms and then learning that’s happening outside of classrooms, and we’re thinking about the balance between the two. …What part does experiential education have in your experience as a Hope Forward student? And when I think of experiential education, I think about off-campus study. Is this something that has been talked about to you all?

Do you all have ideas about going off campus to continue to build on that wealth of knowledge and expertise that you’re looking for to accomplish your dreams? That’s what I’m curious about.

Anna: Yeah, so there are actually two members of the sophomore cohort that are abroad right now and missing out on this wonderful conference but living wonderfully abroad.

And Hope Forward covers up to two semesters off-campus full tuition, which is such a blessing to be able to travel and not worry about where the money is coming from and getting to have those experiences that are life changing.

And so I know myself and many other members of Hope Forward plan to use two semesters off campus to see the world and get internships and just see the global society that we are gonna enter into after college.

Audience member: Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

Audience member: I’m curious if any of you, and some of you touched on this in some of your answers, but I’m curious to hear a little bit more about your parents and your family’s relationship to the college — and if you think that’s distinct or different because of the experience that you’re having in Hope Forward.

Sydney: Yeah, my family had never heard of Hope College, nothing. But since learning about Hope Forward, my grandma is a super fan. She wants me to thank President Scogin personally for her.

It’s just such a beautiful thing, and I think my family is so excited to be a part of it even if they’re not directly. They’re donating, they’re giving back, they’re invested in this and they’re telling their friends. And I think more people from my high school are applying this year. It’s just, I think, just spreading the word and spreading the generosity around.

Jim: Anyone else?

Cora: Yeah, I think Hope Forward, it’s made my parents think a little bit differently about what education can be. And I think for my younger brother, they’re definitely going to be more receptive to … different colleges or to just challenge the idea of a top university or top college. And that’s exciting because there’s a lot of opportunities out there.

And then my parents, they are excited about Hope College and they are planning to come and visit me at some point. I have no family in Michigan, so that’ll be nice.

Jim: And beyond Anna, how many of you have you ever heard of Hope College before now? Nobody.

Nope, nope? Okay, I understand.

Audience member: First, thank you all so much. It’s truly a gift to hear so much about your experiences and what you’re learning and the ways that you’re thinking about the world. It’s truly an inspiration.

Nicole mentioned generosity. And, Nicole, you mentioned virtue as almost an exercise that you have to do. And every once in a while, I do a new workout and I’m like, ‘Ooh, I did not know that I had muscles in those places.’ The next day, it hurts, and there’s some growth that happens through that. And I’m wondering, we’ve heard a lot about the virtue of generosity, but what are some of the other virtues that maybe you weren’t aware of — or things that you have learned that you just didn’t know existed — before being part of the Hope Forward program?

Steven: I think intentionality has been one that has been more important, and I think I’ve realized a lot more. I’m naturally an introvert.

I do not approach people. Like, it’s not my natural inclination to go to someone and talk or introduce myself; but I think there is an intentionality about what we do about the program, about just who we are as people that … we want to love people.

We want to have people know that they can be known and loved, fully known and fully loved. And I think that’s something that can only come if we’re intentional.

And I think we’re intentional with each other. We’re encouraged to be intentional with each other but also serve our community … and that can only be done if we’re intentional and looking outside rather than looking inside.

Jim: Yes you do.

Audience member: I’m gonna stand up. You all give me a lot of hope. My name’s Ann Marano. I’m the executive director of the Colleges That Change Lives organization. So, Cora… I dunno if that was scripted, but I’m literally apoplectic that you just said that. It’s been a gift to be here, and I’m just getting squishy because of everything you’ve said.

And so as I launch, no joke people, our East Coast tour on Friday, bringing the message of the 44 colleges that change lives, Hope is one of them. To students and counselors and families across the country, you are really profound, powerful brand ambassadors with excellent pitches, even though you didn’t know you had them. What do I tell counselors, students and families about this place to get them as excited as you are after discovering it kind of randomly?

Oh, and also thanks for shouting out the Admissions Office. I already texted Greg Kern.

Anna: I think what stands out to me is that Hope College cares about people, and we’re people first, human first, like Nicole always reminds us. And we’re students second and everything else third.

So, really, Hope is a place where we feel like humans first. And we can take care of our basic needs … like mental health and just succeed as people first, and then in the classroom, and then in the programs, and clubs, and organizations we’re a part of. But really, it just starts with treating us as people first.

Nicole: PAM, I think you’re in the room. Public Affairs and Marketing…

Audience member: I’m starting the hashtag right now.

YJ: I feel like some people get worried that with this scholarship, they’re making Hope cheap. But they’re just making it affordable. They’re not making it cheaper. The education here is still top notch, everything is great. So if that’s a worry, I would tell them that.

Sydney: And Hope College is a really good institution.

…we’re right there with [University of] Michigan. We’re right there with all these big name schools, and I think that’s also forgotten about as … a smaller Christian school. But it’s really good academics, so I think that’s also a good pitch.

Cora: Yeah, Hope College is rooted in faith and has strong academics and it will allow us to succeed in many different ways, so it’s very exciting.

Davi: Yeah, and I guess just as how Jesus has the ability to change each and every one of us, I feel like this program is going to change everything very fast. And to be part of a change like this, it’s just so exciting. So, I don’t know, I feel like to be on the brink of innovation, on the brink of this, it’s almost as if we’re going through … a giant jungle. But there is a path we know and we can follow. Why not be a part of that?

Anna: You’re being a part of building the program. YJ and I, last year, we were the first cohort to go through this. And we can see how the program has changed for these freshmen and how it’s gonna continue to change once they give their feedback. So you’re gonna be a part of building something special.

Nicole: Did you catch that? They’re freshman and sophomores. They’re amazing.

Okay, we have time for one more question,

Audience member [Hope Forward student]: So you guys have talked a lot about … how Hope Forward is more than just a scholarship, and it’s also a program and we do a lot to bond as a cohort. And so I know that when I received the scholarship, I didn’t know what that was gonna look like. And so I was wondering if you could speak more to …what we do as a cohort, what kinds of things we do when we meet, and what is Hope forward besides just the scholarship? What do we do outside of that?

Steven: I think one of my favorite things that we’ve done as a cohort has been serving. We went and served at different places as a cohort. And … we just have fun together … that’s something that we just do. And we get to know each other and we know each other as more than just a program. We know each other as just students that have the same vision to love people and change the way we think about people and about education and about what it means to be at a college — but also be a people that see people as humans first and that have fun together in that.

And I know each cohort has set their expectations and we’ve like signed a … covenant, yeah. But, we’ve talked about that. …We laugh and we do things that are funny, and we don’t take ourselves seriously; but we also care and we get to know each other.

Jim: As you know, these relationships you’re building now, you don’t know it yet, will last you the rest of your lives.

Nicole: Well, amen to all of that. Can we just give a massive thank you to these students and to Jim?

Can Hope Forward Work on Other Campuses?

This blog post is part of a series. Read the introduction and Meet Some of Our Hope Forward Students, Why Apply to Hope Forward?, What Connections Are Hope Forward Students Making on Campus?, What Are Some Challenges to Being a Hope Forward Student? and How has Hope Forward Changed Your View of Generosity in Higher Education?

Hope College hosted author and journalist Malcom Gladwell during the day-long “Catalyst Summit”. Subtitled “Access and Innovation in Higher Education,” the summit is bringing together thought leaders from a variety of fields to consider new ideas and spark meaningful conversations about how to fix higher education’s broken funding model.

Jim: This is a question that Mr. Gladwell asked me yesterday, and I had an answer. But I’m curious to get your perspective. Do you think this model could be replicated in a non-Christian college with what we have in terms of giving and wanting to give and being guided by the Holy Spirit? Could this happen at a “North Jersey University?”

Sydney: I think you can find Christianity anywhere. Like, Christianity isn’t confined to a Christian college. And even if you’re not Christian, I think a lot of Christian values are found in lots of good people. And I think it’s about having a good heart. For me, a lot of that comes from knowing Jesus and loving Jesus. But for some people who don’t have that, that doesn’t mean that they don’t have that same love and generosity, so I think it could work.

Jim: Anybody else?

Cora: Yeah, I absolutely think it could work because a scholarship like Hope Forward, it’s very freeing because there’s no income share. So once you graduate, you get to choose how much you want to give back. And so it gives you freedom to be able to pursue what you want to pursue and do what you want with your life. And I think that is attractive for people who go to school.

Davi: It definitely can happen in a non-Christian college because I think the program in itself, we’re investing because we believe in it. And I feel like when other universities, other places believe in this dream — like, what Hope College is doing right now — then it can happen everywhere.
You know, this is just a start. I’m just so excited to see how this will go.

Steven: I think it can. And I mean, the hope and the dream is that it does. I think it definitely helps that we are secure in our love for Jesus, and that helps us start this. …We don’t sign a contract to say we have to [pay it back]. And part of that beginning security is knowing that we love Jesus, love people, want to give back. And so I think, yes. And the dream is that we can; but I think it definitely is a boost … that we love Jesus so that we can start this and point people to this. And if anything, point people to Jesus through this.

Jim: I can’t speak for the rest of you, but I am so impressed by these six people.

And I believe we want to have time for Q&A. Yes, we want to invite you all into the conversation. So if you have questions, I believe we have volunteers who have mics and can pass you a mic. If you have a question just pop your hand up.

How has Hope Forward Changed Your View of Generosity in Higher Education?

This blog post is part of a series. Read the introduction and Meet Some of Our Hope Forward Students, Why Apply to Hope Forward?, What Connections Are Hope Forward Students Making on Campus? and What Are Some Challenges to Being a Hope Forward Student?

Hope College — Hope College plays host to author and journalist Malcom Gladwell to speak about the Hope Forward project.

Jim: Before they cut me off, how has this experience, if at all, changed your view of investment in generosity, in higher education, in — to use the cliche — paying it forward? Has this experience changed your perceptions in any way from what they might have been? Anyone jump in.

Cora: Hope Forward has changed me because I’m more generous. I feel like I was generous before, but now I have even more of a reason to. And it’s also impacted my family. This scholarship has allowed me to go to college debt free, and my family’s also more generous. We are able to be more charitable with our time and our finances. And because I’m planning to give back to Hope Forward after I graduate, I started my retirement investments, and I’m ready.

Davi: For me, I think how it changed me is it made me see, I guess, we all keep saying how beautiful Hope Forward is. It’s love at its purest form, as well as generosity. And the way it changed for me is: If this has been given to me, why not give it back to someone else? And this beautiful cycle of love, of giving back … every day I wake up, and I’m just reminded and in awe of that. And I just really love that, you know?

Sydney: Yeah, I mean, I’m not sure how to follow that up.

Jim: Do your best.

Sydney: I just think of the donors who just so generously funded our education. And how could you not just be excited to fund the people and generations to come? College is way too expensive, and I think it takes a toll on so many families and dampers a lot of time. And I just think that being able to receive a scholarship through generosity like this is just something that’s really incredible and really innovative, and I’m just so excited to be a part of it.

Steven: I would not have thought that I would be in my freshman year going, ‘I can’t wait to graduate and have a job and give back.’ Like, you don’t usually do that in a freshman year. You’re usually like, ‘I gotta figure my stuff out.’ And I still have to do that, but I am outside focused already. And I think we talk about generosity, and it’s not just financial. We realize that it’s time, it’s listening to people. A lot of us have big goals that we want to achieve, but I think it’s the small day-to-day conversations that we have with people that we just want to be able to give back.…

Jim: That’s excellent. Anna?

Anna: Yeah, when I think of this question, it makes me think about how there’s so many different ways to be generous and no two people are gonna be generous in the same way. And kind of like the people sitting here, some wanna be doctors, some wanna work at nonprofits, others wanna be missionaries in our cohort. So what we can give will look different.

… Nothing is required. We just have signed a covenant to give what we can. And I think that’s the beautiful part of what this program is developing. It’s developing generous hearts at its core.

And it’s not about requirements or paying back a certain number. It’s about living into generosity and being generous with finances and your time and your talents.

Jim: YJ?

YJ: I feel like everybody has tough days. And for me, there’s days where I feel like I don’t belong or … I’m not supposed to be here, and I’m not worthy enough. But having this scholarship, and just having trust and Hope’s investment in me, it makes me go through those hard days and work harder.

And instead of just going to bed early, I work hard. And I feel like in everything I do, just the fact that Hope wants me to be here changes everything.

What Are Some Challenges to Being a Hope Forward Student?

This blog post is part of a series. Read the introduction and Meet Some of Our Hope Forward Students, Why Apply to Hope Forward? and What Connections Are Hope Forward Students Making on Campus?

Hope College hosted author and journalist Malcom Gladwell during the day-long “Catalyst Summit”. Subtitled “Access and Innovation in Higher Education,” the summit is bringing together thought leaders from a variety of fields to consider new ideas and spark meaningful conversations about how to fix higher education’s broken funding model.

Jim: Let me just jump in before I lose time. We were backstage getting ready to go on, and of course, there’s nerves and just excitement … and someone said organically, ‘Let’s pray.’ And we got in a circle and did a popcorn prayer. And I was just thinking to myself, ‘This is so cool because these guys are going out here in front of this audience and they’re nervous; but they know where their strength comes from, and they took the time to say: Let’s get in a circle and ask him to help us out here.’ And as you know, in the world outside of Hope College, that doesn’t often happen. And to get to see it in people of your age, is just remarkable. (audience applauding)

What have the challenges been in Hope Forward to this point? … I think you know the other Hope Forward students as well. I mean, these six brave souls came out here; but there are dozens of people, as you know, in the program over the course of a few semesters. So what have the challenges been? Anyone?

Sydney: Well, for me, I’m from a small town in Iowa. And as you can imagine, there’s not a lot of diversity there. … Hearing everyone’s stories and how different our lives are — I wouldn’t say it’s a challenge, but it’s almost a barrier in a sense. Like, how can you relate with these people if you have different experiences? But I think Hope Forward has brought us together and shown us you may have different backgrounds, but our hearts are the same. Our hearts are for Jesus. Our hearts are for generosity, and our hearts are for Hope.

So just having this program, it’s shown us a lot about how different backgrounds can form the closest relationships.

Jim: That’s great. Anyone else?

Anna: I would say perhaps not a challenge, but something we’ve bonded over, is that most of us are not from Michigan.… One of the requirements when we applied was being out of the region and the surrounding states of Michigan. So coming to Hope College, which traditionally is made up of a lot of students from Michigan, we’ve definitely felt that and seen that. And we’ve bonded with one another over the distance from our homes and even the international students being in another country. So we definitely are a diverse group geographically coming from all over the world.

Cora: I can add. Yeah, speaking of bonding from being far away, we had a game night over winter break; and that was fun because Hope Forward students got together and we played games. Another challenge, even though I see it as an opportunity because we’ve received this scholarship, [is that] a lot of other students on campus — if they know that I’m a Hope Forward student, they’re like: ‘Oh, Cora, you don’t have to pay for school. You’re so lucky. I wish I could be you.’ And trying to explain what Hope Forward means to me, that has been something that has enriched my gratitude for the scholarship, but also allowed me to see other students and how student debt is really a problem and a burden.

Davi: And going off of that — I don’t know if other people can also relate — but I sometimes struggle with … imposter syndrome or something. I look at people around me and I see that there are so many other people that seem way more deserving or even worthy of this scholarship. And sometimes I look into my life and I tell myself, like, I don’t know…. this is something I wrestle with God sometimes.
… I see myself as just, you know, we’re all human … we all sin and stuff like that. But the things that God has done for me and my family, it’s just unimaginable. And to think that I’ve been receiving this… I know everything happens for a reason. And I know that I trusted in God before and now you can see where that led me. I know that I can continue trusting in God. I’m just so excited to see where he’ll take me. But I guess it’s just kind of those doubts that every person may have in a similar situation like this.

Steven: I think something that Nicole reminded us … is that we are people first, students second and then Hope Forward, and everything else third. And I think that has been helpful because I think we’re reminded that we are not the scholarship that we get. We are not just recipients of a scholarship and money that gets us through; but we are people first. And we want to be people that love first and people that are outward-focused. That’s been really helpful for us, and … whether they … can’t resonate with us being Hope Forward or we can’t resonate with them, I think it’s just been helpful to be outward-focused. And this has helped us not look at ourselves, I think, and look at others.

What Connections Are Hope Forward Students Making on Campus?

This blog post is part of a series. Read the introduction and Meet Some of Our Hope Forward Students and Why Apply to Hope Forward?

Hope College hosted author and journalist Malcom Gladwell during the day-long “Catalyst Summit”. Subtitled “Access and Innovation in Higher Education,” the summit is bringing together thought leaders from a variety of fields to consider new ideas and spark meaningful conversations about how to fix higher education’s broken funding model.

Jim: Tell me this, and anyone can answer this if you like, we don’t have to go down the aisle. Do you have a “Hope who?” And by that, I mean, is there someone or someones — let’s keep it to one if we can — who has really impacted you since you’ve been here at Hope?

For me, it was my freshman English professor, Jack Riddle, who I think inspired me to become a writer. I owe my career in part to his inspiration. We’re still friends to this day. The fact that I have a professor older than me who’s still alive is pretty amazing. But if someone asked me, ‘Who did I take away from this college?’ It would be that man. Do you have someone like that at this point in your educational journey?

Steven: I think it sounds cliche, but President Scogin. I think he just does such a good job. I know he’s an intelligent man and he’s very smart, but he also does such a good job at talking about Jesus every time he’s up here. And not in a way that’s exclusive, not in a way that compromises being intelligent or being welcoming or being open, but in a way that puts Jesus first and lets him do the work. And I admire that as a person who wants to go into medicine and knows that medicine is a field where you have to maybe just be intelligent and let your feelings not be a part of what you do. And I think there is always a space for Jesus, and Jesus should be the first. And I think that drives me wanting to excel in medicine. I see that in what President Scogin does. A model like [Hope Forward] that is made to be funded like a church … there’s just so much hope and so much just pointing to who Jesus is … not just this model but in what I want to do.

Jim: Amazing, anyone else?

YJ: I’ll go. For me, it’s everyone in the Center of Global Engagement: Amy, Kristen, Kendra, Katie, Jasmine, Habeeb. They were all so helpful in the beginning. And I feel like if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have been able to settle into Hope as easily as I did. So, yeah.

Anyone else?

Anna: I feel like the professors here know us and see us. And being at Hope College, we’re able to develop those relationships with our professors. So I can’t name just one because there are so many that I’ve formed relationships with and who have impacted me in many meaningful ways. I think that’s also part of the Hope Forward vision — moving away from this transactional relationships with students and professors and moving towards transformational relationships amongst all people at the college.