Nancy Estabrook walked away from a gathering in Carmel, Ind., where President Matthew Scogin talked about Hope Forward, inspired that she could be a part of changing students’ lives.

She and her husband, Neil, decided soon after the meeting for friends, parents and alumni of Hope College that they wanted to give to support Hope Forward and sent a check without delay.

“This could really change the lives of some students,” said Nancy. “We believe in giving to causes like that.”

The Estabrooks, whose daughter Jessica is a senior at Hope, were most attracted to the Christian focus of Hope Forward, a financial model where students receive gifted tuition paid for by generous donors and agree to pay it forward after they graduate so other students will have the same opportunity.

“This is not a have to pay this back back but give back as you can,” explained Nancy. “It’s a covenant. I love that word. Hope Forward embodies a lot of the Christian values and mission Hope has. I think it can work. I really do.”

Shortly after being appointed to his post five years ago, President Scogin launched Hope Forward to solve the problem of overwhelming student debt. The Estabrooks originally learned about the program through newsletters and emails from Hope. What excited them most, however, was how President Scogin described the biblical basis for Hope Forward.

“He talked about Jesus coming with an upside down economy,” said Nancy. “The purpose of money is not to get as much as you can and keep it for yourself. The purpose of money is to use it for others and give it away.”

Hope Forward’s reliance on student gratitude for the tremendous gift of someone paying for their tuition and their integrity to give back is one of the main reasons the Estabrooks think the model will work.

“These students at Hope are special. We’ve watched Jessica and the students at the college as a whole interact with each other,” said Nancy, who has been on campus and around the Holland area many times to watch her daughter compete on Hope’s swim team. “We’ve been to chapel a couple of times and were blown away by how many students were there, even though it’s not required. That’s one of the things that made us realize what a special place Hope is.”

“Students would take that covenant/commitment and make good on it,” she said, referring to her belief that students would be motivated by gratitude and give back to Hope when they graduate.

Nancy emphasized that she sees Hope’s campus as a generous community filled with people who care about each other, especially during the pandemic.

“Hope put students first and kept saying, ‘We want you here,’” Nancy said. “They put the responsibility on the students: Here’s what you need to do to be on campus. They relied on students to do the right thing. And, they did.”

According to the Estabrooks, this mindset will help make Hope Forward successful. Even in their optimism, they freely admit that making it work will have challenges. They realize that money has to come from somewhere to get Hope Forward started—from people like them who believe it will work.

“This is a way to show your faith, that you believe in these students and give to them so that they can pay it forward,” said Nancy.

That’s just what their family is doing.

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