A Mission to Eliminate Inequity by Increasing Student Success and Expanding Educational Opportunities

HCM Strategists advances and aligns policies that improve educational outcomes beyond high school to increase equity and social and economic mobility for underserved communities.

We advocate for students who have been left behind by the traditional system of higher education. HCM is committed to eliminating inequities that continue to place students of color and low-income students at a disadvantage in pursuing and completing a postsecondary credential. The importance of this mission has only magnified in light of COVID-19, which altered the education landscape as we know it.

Our team does not shy away from new challenges. We tackle them head-on by working closely with elected officials, colleges and universities, business leaders, non-profit organizations, foundations and alternative providers of postsecondary credentials. We partner with diverse organizations and clients who share our desire and dedication to improving students’ postsecondary outcomes.


We are effective because we provide the appropriate aspects of engagement that lead to positive outcomes. Our postsecondary practice group offers solutions through the following areas of expertise. Click on each section of the wheel to learn more.

  • Federal and State Policy
    + Provide non-partisan facilitation, content expertise and advice to leaders and their staffs in government, legislative and executive branches.
    + Track policy and budget adoption across 50 states.
  • Strategy
    + Support clients in thinking through long term strategic plans and associated opportunities and metrics.
    + Conduct strategic planning exercises with clients to address their short and long term needs.
    + Advise clients on aligning their priorities, investments and tactics with existing efforts in the field.
  • Advocacy
    + Build networks of organizations and coalitions to advocate for policy change at the federal and state levels.
    + Identify effective partners to engage in campaigns focused on improving outcomes and closing achievement gaps.
    + Collaborate with various organizations to amplify voices and use student outcome data to build will for change.
  • Capacity Building 
    + Serve as an intermediary to drive adoption of policies and strategies and elevate lessons learned.
    + Co-develop and manage sub-grants and contracts to facilitate policy and advocacy capacity-building.
    + Partner with clients to create new platforms and methods for serving students better.
  • System and Institutional Support 
    + Provide technical support (e.g., training, facilitation) to systems and institutions to support student success.
    + Provide system and institutional assessments to identify barriers and opportunities to increase student retention and completion.
  • Research copy 
    Conduct qualitative and quantitative research to:
    + Assess impacts of policies designed to improve student outcomes.
    + Understand how to effectively communicate to stakeholders.
    + Create evidence-based policies and communication materials.


We Are Non-Traditional Consensus Builders

As policy experts and advocates, we are consensus builders who work side by side with elected leaders and policymakers, students and their families, to form and advance agendas for positive change.

HCM’s team excels at bringing non-traditional groups together in coalitions that focus on students and the more affordable, clearer pathways to credentials and needed jobs. We are bipartisan, hands-on front line advocates who know that context and relationships matter when advancing solutions that meet our client partner goals.

  • Lumina Foundation

    Lumina Foundation, an lndianapolis-based private foundation, is committed to enrolling and graduating more students from college—especially 21st century students: low-income students, students of color, first-generation students and adult learners. Lumina’s goal is to increase the percentage of Americans who hold high-quality degrees and credentials to 60 percent by 2025. Lumina pursues this goal in three ways: by identifying and supporting effective practice, through public policy advocacy, and by using our communications and convening power to build public will for change.

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  • Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

    The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation seeks to accelerate efforts already under way in higher education and to support the enormous talent, creativity, and energy being applied to improving student completion rates and lowering costs while raising the quality of the U.S. postsecondary education system.

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  • Vox Global

    Vox Global’s clients face complex and diverse issues. Situations change, events happen, opportunities arise and crises threaten. They anticipate, adapt and prepare our clients for the future.

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  • College Board

    College Board is a not-for-profit membership organization committed to excellence and equity in education. Their mission is to connect students to college success and opportunity. Their initiatives promote curricula, assessment tools, district and guidance resources that help K-12 students prepare for and connect with higher education. With tools like the Advanced Placement (AP®) college-level courses and the SAT college entrance exam, College Board is at the forefront of college preparation.

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  • New Hampshire Charitable Foundation

    The New Hampshire Charitable Foundation is New Hampshire’s statewide community foundation, founded in 1962 by and for the people of New Hampshire. They manage a growing collection of nearly 1,900 funds created by generous individuals, families and businesses, and award more than $40 million in grants and scholarships every year. The foundation works with generous and visionary citizens to maximize the power of their giving, support great work happening in our communities and lead and collaborate on high-impact initiatives.

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  • Dillard University

    Since 1869, Dillard University has been committed to providing students with a quality four-year liberal arts education. Dillard is a fully accredited private, historically black university. In 2010, U.S. News & World Report ranked Dillard among the nation’s Top 10 HBCUs, based on comprehensive undergraduate studies. Dillard also was awarded a Top 10 Ranking in 2010 for liberal arts schools in the social mobility category by Washington Monthly.

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  • State Higher Education Executive Officers

    The State Higher Education Executive Officers is the national association of the chief executives of statewide governing, policy, and coordinating boards of postsecondary education. Founded in 1954, SHEEO serves its members as an advocate for state policy leadership, as a liaison between states and the federal government, as a vehicle for learning from and collaborating with peers, as a manager of multistate teams to initiate new programs, and as a source of information and analysis on educational and public policy issues. SHEEO seeks to advance public policies and educational practices to achieve more widespread access to and completion of higher education, more discoveries through research, and more applications of knowledge that improve the quality of human lives and enhance the public good.

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  • EnLearn

    EnLearn’s mission is to radically improve education for every student by continuously adapting the entire learning ecosystem. They have developed a groundbreaking learning platform that allows publishers, school districts, and teachers to work together to deliver personalized learning while using classroom data to make content and learning more effective. Enlearn diagnoses key learning obstacles and misconceptions in real-time to deliver the right problem with the right support at the right time, personalized to the student’s learning DNA.

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  • Higher Learning Advocates

    Higher Learning Advocates is a non-profit advocacy organization working to shift federal policy from higher education to higher learning—education and training beyond high school that leads to a degree, credential, or employment. While more students are participating in higher education than ever before, there is a vast and growing disconnect between federal policy and the needs of today’s students, employers, and communities. We are working toward federal policies that create transparent pathways to success, incentivize innovation, protect students and taxpayers, and improve outcomes.

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  • Austin Chamber of Commerce

    For 140 years, the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce has connected the community to make Austin work. We invest in a broad range of programs that build and support a prosperous regional economy.  Leveraging our Opportunity Austin initiative, we help create jobs, recruit job generators, and develop talent.  We help companies’ startup, expand and innovate. We ensure students are workforce ready. We push for policy to remain the best place to work, live and play. We roll up our sleeves to take on the biggest issues our community cares about like affordability, CodeNEXT and traffic. We connect businesses to resources and information to help them network and grow.

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  • KinderCare Education

    KinderCare Education serves more than 161,000 children aged six weeks to 12 years. While each KinderCare Education brand meets the needs of different age groups and communities, every one of them is dedicated to their mission of educational excellence as well as the nation’s highest standards of care. KinderCare Education’s National Support Center (NSC) provides ongoing support to field leadership, as well as professional development for educators and staff, curriculum development, and strategic guidance for all of their brands.

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  • Laura and John Arnold Foundation

    Our core objective is to improve the lives of individuals by strengthening our social, governmental, and economic systems. Our strategy is to systematically examine areas of society in which underperformance, inefficiency, concentrated power, lack of information, lack of accountability, lack of transparency, lack of balance among interests, or other barriers to human progress and achievement exist. Our approach is not limited to what has been tried, or even what has been proposed, in the past. Instead, we seek to incentivize bold, creative thinking and effort, with the goal of igniting a renaissance of new ideas and approaches applied to persistent problems.

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  • Campaign for College Opportunity

    Campaign for College Opportunity is a statewide advocacy organization in California with a mission to ensure all students in the state have the opportunity to attend and succeed in college. They work to influence legislation and system policies through raising student voice, collaborating with other like-minded leaders, and elevating research and best practices. In 2014, HCM Strategists worked with the CCO Board to develop their next strategic plan through 2018.

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  • United Way of Southeast Louisiana

    The United Way of Southeast Louisiana spends a great deal of time identifying, assessing and monitoring the most pressing needs in our region. They then fund programs, support collaborations, convene experts, advocate for change and foster new and needed community services to address the issues based on best practices. The organization works tirelessly to provide quality health and human services for our community and measure the results to ensure we are making a difference.

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  • Ohio Association of Community Colleges

    The trustees, presidents and staff of the Ohio Association of Community Colleges (OACC) are dedicated to the advancement and implementation of sound policy and initiatives that work to ensure the success of the more than 300,000 community college students in Ohio. Rooted in the belief that every person should have access to a high-quality college education, the OACC supports the mission of the state’s 23 community colleges to provide programming in technical education, lower-division baccalaureate education, developmental education, and continuing education in our local communities.

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  • Institute for Higher Education Policy

    The Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization committed to promoting access to and success in higher education for all students. Based in Washington, D.C., IHEP develops innovative policy- and practice-oriented research to guide policymakers and education leaders who develop high-impact policies that will address our nation’s most pressing education challenges.

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  • Florida Memorial University

    Building upon the traditions of our past and harnessing the richness of the present, Florida Memorial University prepares our students, through innovation, collaboration and creativity, to assume leadership roles in a highly competitive, technology-driven, and increasingly global marketplace. The mission of Florida Memorial University is to instill in our students the values of leadership, character, and service to enhance their lives and the lives of others on our campus, in our community, and in the world through a transformational, liberal arts education.

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  • Association for Institutional Research

    The Association for Institutional Research (AIR) supports higher education professionals in the collection, analysis, interpretation, and communication of data, and the strategic use of information for effective decision making and planning. AIR provides resources, innovative practices, and professional development opportunities for AIR members and the higher education community, including professionals from institutional research, effectiveness, assessment, planning, and related fields.​

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  • California Edge Coalition

    In the more than a decade since its formation, EDGE has focused on improving California’s system of workforce education and training and removing the serious barriers that prevent so many Californians from getting the skills they need to succeed in the labor market. California has made progress since we first came together. There is now widespread recognition that despite the state’s historic commitment to higher education, too few students achieve degrees, certificates, or transfer and many low-skilled working adults have limited access to skill-development opportunities. Career education that had once received limited recognition and insufficient financial support is increasingly being recognized as an important component of postsecondary education.

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  • The Aspen Institute

    The Aspen Institute has earned a reputation for gathering diverse, nonpartisan thought leaders, creatives, scholars and members of the public to address some of the world’s most complex problems. But the goal of these convenings is to have an impact beyond the conference room. They are designed to provoke, further and improve actions taken in the real world.

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  • University of Virginia / Nudge

    University of Virginia Nudge4 projects leverage insights from behavioral economics and social psychology to design interventions that encourage people to make active and informed decisions and to follow through on their own plans and intentions. They harness rich data and sophisticated analytic techniques to prompt people with information that is highly personalized, salient, and actionable. Nudge4 projects also leverage communications technologies like text messaging to effectively reach people, convey timely information, and connect people to individualized assistance. They build collaborative, sustained partnership with schools, agencies and organizations to develop effective, scalable policy interventions.

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Case Studies
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  • Building Capacity for Change in Federal Financial Aid Advocacy

    The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Reimagining Aid Design and Delivery (RADD) initiative yielded important policy and seeded collaboration around federal financial aid improvement options. HCM Strategists (HCM) contributed analysis and original recommendations to this reform debate with a coalition report (American Dream 2.0), a technical report with original cost and impact modeling by the Urban Institute (Doing Better for More Students) and Hart Research and David Winston-led public opinion research (College is Worth It).

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  • Tackling Inequities Through Intentional Strategic Planning

    HCM Strategists (HCM) works to advance and align policies that improve educational outcomes beyond high school. Our postsecondary team is focused on eliminating inequities that continue to place learners at a disadvantage in pursuing and completing a postsecondary credential.

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  • Outcomes-Based Funding: Driving Outcomes for Students Through Aligned Funding Models

    Most state postsecondary education finance policies are not well aligned with states’ pressing need to increase student access, success, attainment and equity — with shortcomings reflected in real costs to students, taxpayers and the economy. That reality, combined with a challenging fiscal climate, has fueled a resurgence of interest in and state action regarding funding policies, which tie a portion of state appropriations to metrics that gauge institutional performance on various indicators. Building on the lessons of early performance funding efforts over the past 35 years, more than two-thirds of states are currently developing or implementing outcomes-based funding (OBF) policies — but they vary widely in quality, scale, maturity and sustainability. HCM Strategists is advancing the development, implementation and analysis of sound OBF policies that better align state funding with state student success goals and prioritize completion and equity.

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  • Support for Equity-Minded Leadership

    The majority of Americans in 2043 will be African American, Latinx, Asian-American/Pacific Islander or American Indian. Today, one-half of all public school children have family incomes low enough to qualify them for free or reduced lunch. The nation cannot power its workforce or protect its democracy with fewer than 30 percent of people of color earning a credential beyond a high school diploma or when just 1 in 10 low-income students earn a postsecondary credential by age 25.

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