cat·​a·​lyst ˈka-tə-ləst :
an agent that provokes or speeds significant change or action

The Catalyst Summit, hosted by Hope College and Malcolm Gladwell, is a day for innovators, thought leaders and change-makers to explore the possibilities of a future where higher education is built on an entirely new funding model making college education affordable and accessible to all.

Happening later this week at Hope College and streamed live for the public, the summit will feature author and champion of change Malcolm Gladwell, as well as other influential thought leaders.

Higher ed is the key to solving income inequality. Raj Chetty, an economist at Harvard, shows that students from different socio-economic backgrounds who attend the same college can have nearly identical opportunities for success after graduation. 

But the skyrocketing cost of college creates a barrier that, for too many, is just too high. For too many, opportunity is pre-determined by their family’s net worth or what zip code the student grows up in.

And even for those with means, the high price tag causes students to treat their education as a transaction: they pay their fee and they’re handed a degree in return. Instead of creating, as C.S. Lewis described Oxford, “a society for the pursuit of learning,” this perpetuates a host of problems such as an entitlement mentality and grade inflation.

Yet we have hope.

For us, hope is about running toward problems with the expectation that we can create a better world. 

The whole world is asking why college has gotten so expensive. Hope College is trying to take the lead in solving that puzzle. We envision a future without tuition, where higher education is funded by generosity.

This isn’t free college, another version of student loans, or an income-shared agreement (ISA). We’re calling it Hope Forward: students will receive their entire education funded by the generosity of others. Then they make a commitment to give to the college every year after graduation. 

No amount is prescribed. We replace bill paying with gift giving, where alumni “pay it forward” so future students benefit from the generosity of those that came before.

We’ve started with a small cohort of students, selected for their passion to be catalysts for change. We’re imagining a citizenry of people motivated by what they can give to the world, not by what they can take. 

This week will be a Catalyst for change, for reshaping a national conversation. Will you join us?