“What Hope Means”: Josh Chapman of Roanoke’s Community High School Talks about Support, Innovation at Hollins

Josh Chapman

The rising cost of college tuition can be a deterrent for many high school seniors looking to pursue higher education. However, a new scholarship program through Hollins University will alleviate that burden for some students.

The Hollins Opportunity for Promise through Education (HOPE) guarantees that select first-year students from the surrounding Roanoke area can attend Hollins tuition free, full time, for four years. Josh Chapman M.A.L.S. ’05, M.F.A. ‘07, a college counselor and the academic director and head of school at Roanoke’s Community High School, spoke about the incredible support and innovation happening at Hollins.

Q: What has been your experience working as a counselor with Hollins University? 

The Hollins University Office of Admission has always been very communicative and had great outreach. They are curious about students in a holistic and thorough way. They’ve always been a pleasure to deal with and they really care about the individuals applying to their campus.

Q: Why would you encourage a student to choose Hollins? 

I’m a little biased. I’m an alumnus of the graduate program in creative writing and also got my Master of Arts in Liberal Studies at Hollins.

My father moved here to be in the creative writing program around 1970. Hollins is what brought us here, so I know the campus really well. It is unique in the context of education compared to other liberal arts institutions in Virginia and nationwide.

If you’ve never been on the campus, go look. It’s a beautiful place. It’s pedestrian friendly and quite beautiful. The faculty are really giving of their time. Because the predominant enrollment is undergraduate paired with small class sizes, they spend a lot of time with individual students creating strong bonds.

Of course, there are some famous and celebrated programs. I am biased toward the creative writing program, but I’ve also worked with students who have gone into careers in business and research science. That said, even if you don’t know your career path forward, Hollins is a great place to find out what you want to do. Hollins helps you set goals and find who you are.

Q: What was your first take on the HOPE program?

As someone who has worked with a lot of students, as a parent of a child attending university, and as the spouse of a college professor, I understand that the price tag of a liberal arts college is high. However, it ends up being a better deal, ironically. Private liberal arts colleges are almost always more generous with financial aid. That said, the cost of a four-year college education, public or private, is becoming very difficult.

In recent years several colleges have worked to make it more affordable. The wonderful thing about the HOPE program is that it says a couple of specific and special things about the Roanoke Valley.

For starters, if you are qualified to go to Hollins academically and your gender identity is applicable, then they care about having you there. It is an international student body, but they really want to serve people in the Roanoke Valley. After a century and a half plus, that level of commitment is profound and wonderful.

Q: How is the HOPE program different from other financial aid options?

The typical financial aid system can be very confusing and off-putting to people. With the HOPE program, we get to say that a student will be tuition free upfront. It isn’t a question that something might change, and for the vast majority of families that makes this more accessible than other options. They get an undergraduate education at an institute that is nationally known and has a strong graduate program.

I am so excited that they were able to communicate this option with people. I’ve seen even in their first year, many students can breathe a sigh of relief. They have options. They now know that they don’t have to stress about affording to go to college.

For most families, paying for college is far more worrisome than getting in. My father worked his way through college at a pizza restaurant. That is simply impossible for this generation to imagine. Beginning professional life burdened with debt can have severe consequences. Hollins has just reduced that anxiety considerably.

Q: In closing, what do you hope for your students or students in the Roanoke Valley? 

We are very lucky to live here, near many higher education institutions. Hollins is relatively unique among them. My hope is that this scholarship program does the following essential things.

Hollins is full of wonderful students, many of whom are local to this beautiful area. I hope that they will stay here and help the Roanoke Valley. Also, I hope that this starts a conversation around other regional liberal arts colleges. They should all have a commitment to their home communities. One thing that they can do is to recognize that commitment to local people and not get distracted by national rankings or other competition. Hollins is at the forefront and I applaud it and I hope it spreads.

Interested in finding out more about Hollins University and the HOPE program? Visit our HOPE program website to learn more about the requirements.