Dear Hope Community,
As we wrap up this semester and begin to look ahead, I’m excited to announce that the Hope College Board of Trustees has approved a freeze to the tuition, room and board rates for the 2021-22 academic year. For the first time since 1968, the cost of a Hope education will not increase in the coming year.
A difficult year. In part, this freeze is our response to a difficult year that Hope students and families have endured. Given the challenges of 2020, we are proud of all that our students have accomplished. No other cohort in recent memory has been as resilient, focused and dedicated in the face of adversity. We know that, for many students and families, financial hardship was a particular source of adversity. It is our hope that, by keeping tuition, room and board flat, we can help mitigate the financial impact of COVID-19 on Hope’s students and families.
A counter-cultural position. The decision to keep costs flat, however, is more than simply a response to challenging times. Against the spiraling cost of higher education, it is a deliberate move to be counter-cultural.
For decades, colleges and universities in the United States have increased the sticker price of tuition at roughly double the rate of inflation. Increasing tuition year over year is now assumed — as if it’s the law of gravity. It’s no longer “if,” but “by how much?” Hope has not been immune to this cultural assumption; until now, we’ve followed the trend, raising our tuition every year for more than 50 consecutive years.
Looking ahead, tuition increases for an excellent residential college education are unlikely to slow — and may even get worse in the coming years.
Here’s what’s happening on a national level: The cost of running a college has never been more expensive than it is right now (due to COVID-19), and at the same time, revenue is decreasing because of declining enrollment. The combination of higher expenses and less revenue means more pressure on scholarship dollars. With less scholarship money available, the real cost of college will go up yet again — this year and likely for several years to come.
That is the phenomenon occurring nationally. At Hope, we, too, have been strained financially this year. Nevertheless we are well-positioned to do something different. Our enrollment is strong, our financial balance sheet is healthy, and we’ve been smart about how we spend money. Sure, given the headwinds and future uncertainty, it would be easiest to follow what’s always been done. But we are committed to a longer-term ambition of making Hope more affordable and accessible.
Despite current challenges, we remain relentlessly — and counter-culturally — focused on that goal.
A new thing. In my inauguration speech, less than 18 months ago, I said something that was and continues to be on my heart: “God is one who never changes . . . and yet also a God who does new things. I feel God moving here now . . . doing a new thing at Hope College.” I’ve never lost the feeling that God is doing a new thing at Hope College. In fact, I feel it even more strongly today than last year.
The decision to keep tuition, room and board costs flat marks a pivot toward doing a “new thing” relative to the business model of higher education. We believe Hope can be a leader with regard to one of the biggest societal issues of our day: the cost of a college degree.
Hope has already set itself apart this year, and we can continue to do so by tackling tough questions facing higher education. This is the first step toward the goal of a different approach to funding higher education and, ultimately, improving how we provide a transformational Christian education that equips students to bring HOPE to the world.
Spera in Deo!
Matthew A. Scogin
See, I am doing a new thing!Isaiah 43:19
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.