Temple University professor Sara Goldrick-Rab, the leader of the nonprofit Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice that helps students struggling with basic needs, announced she has resigned from both positions after a tumultuous spring and summer in which her oversight at the center was begin investigated by campus leaders.
According to an article from the Philadelphia Inquirer, Goldrick-Rab did not receive any discipline from the university but left on her own terms as Temple completed its inquiries.
“This wasn’t an easy decision. I’ve earned tenure multiple times and walking away from a tenured faculty role and the leadership of a center I founded isn’t something I’m taking lightly,” the 45-year-old Goldrick-Rab said in a statement. “There are so many humans involved—humans who matter a great deal to me and made much of my time at Temple enjoyable and productive.”
However, Goldrick-Rab had been placed on paid leave by the university in April, and Inside Higher Ed reported that employees at the Hope Center discussed the growing number of layoffs—including eight in June—the criticism they had received while on their jobs and the amount of hours they were working. Goldrick-Rab did not specifically address those items in a blog post titled “Some personal news” that she put on her personal website but did issue these words after thanking a number of people, including former president Neil Theobald, the faculty union and her students.
“Other experiences during the last six years—and particularly the last four months—caused me to realize that Temple is not the right home for me and my work advancing affordability and basic needs security for college students,” she wrote.
Goldrick-Rab, a professor of sociology and medicine, said she will now pivot to authoring a book on her experiences from the “#RealCollege movement” and what the next steps will be in helping bridge those cost gaps for students, as well as devoting more time to her own family and partnerships. And, she said, “I’m open to additional ones.” She is still listed as a Senior Advisor/Chief Strategy Officer for Edquity and founded the organization Believe in Students.
She included in her post a letter from current Temple president Jason Wingard to her in late June, stating that her book “Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial, and the Betrayal of the American Dream” was chosen as the most influential publication in the past five years by any faculty member at Temple. “We are grateful for your talent and celebrate your commitment to our global learning community,” Wingard wrote.
The future of Hope
What will come next for the Hope Center, which got its start under Goldrick-Rab in 2013 as the Wisconsin HOPE Lab before being spun into its current iteration at Temple, is unclear. Anne Lundquist has been the interim director at the Center since Goldrick-Rab’s leave of absence. She worked in administrative roles at several institutions before landing at Anthology as Assistant Vice President for Campus Strategy. The Center was active over the summer, including penning a letter to Congress on Pell grants, discussing the pressing need for emergency aid and addressing the Supreme Court’s ruling on abortion. “The overturning of Roe v. Wade is an affront to the basic security needs of students everywhere,” Lundquist wrote at the time. It also still has its annual conference planned for next April at Rutgers University-Camden.
Staunch advocates for nearly a decade for the underserved, the Hope Center has been working with hundreds of institutions in advocating and helping retain and bringing back students who have stopped out. Those partnerships do come with a cost. Depending on the three levels of guidance and service, institutions spend between $14,000 and $24,000 per year (with HBCUs, Tribal, and community colleges receiving a $5,000 reduction) to work with the Hope Center. Some colleges and universities have been able to use Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds (HEERF) to lower their expense.
But what will the Hope Center be without Goldrick-Rab, its brash, ardent and very active supporter of students and a crucial cog in its funding? Since its inception and its shift to Temple in the past few years, it has been a leader in spotlighting issues of housing and food insecurity, most notably during the COVID-19 pandemic. Goldrick-Rab’s team conducted a survey of nearly 200,000 students about those issues and spoke candidly with University Business about the desperate need for help and higher ed’s struggle to deliver for them.
“The amount of need was substantial, and the number of people not getting help was huge,” she said. “The staff is absolutely trying, but they’re basically doing triage. They’re struggling in three big areas: helping students to know that support is available, they do not have systems in place to quickly process lots of applications, and higher ed is miserable at delivering money to students.”