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.

    + Learn More

  • 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.

    + Learn More

  • 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.

    + Learn More

  • 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.

    + Learn More

  • 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.

    + Learn More

  • 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.

    + Learn More

  • 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.

    + Learn More

  • Appalachian State University

    As the premier public undergraduate institution in the state of North Carolina, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all.

    + Learn More

  • California Student Aid Commission

    The California Student Aid Commission is the principal state agency responsible for administering financial aid programs for students attending public and private universities, colleges, and vocational schools in California. The Commission has never wavered from its central mission to make education beyond high school financially accessible to all Californians.

    + Learn More

  • Delgado Community College

    Located in New Orleans, Louisiana, Delgado Community College is a comprehensive community college that offers programs through the Associate degree. The College provides a learning centered environment through face-to-face and distance education to students from diverse backgrounds to attain their educational, career, and personal goals, to think critically, to demonstrate leadership and to be productive and responsible citizens.

    + Learn More

  • Florida College Access Network

    Florida College Access Network (FCAN) is at the heart of a movement to ensure all Floridians have the opportunity to achieve an education beyond high school and prosper in our dynamic economy. By partnering with leaders, educators and communities throughout Florida—especially through community   alliances called local college access networks (LCANs)—we strive to achieve the State of Florida’s SAIL to 60 goal: for at least 60% of Florida adults to hold degrees and workforce-relevant credentials by 2030.

    + Learn More

  • ECMC Foundation

    Based in Los Angeles, ECMC Foundation is a national foundation working to improve postsecondary outcomes for students from underserved backgrounds.

    + Learn More

  • Generation HOPE

    Our vision is that all teen parents and student parents, and their children, have every opportunity to succeed and are empowered to create a better future for themselves, our community, and our world.

    + Learn More

  • University of Mississippi

    Founded in 1848, the University of Mississippi, affectionately known to alumni, students and friends as Ole Miss, is Mississippi’s flagship university. Included in the elite group of R-1: Doctoral Universities – Highest Research Activity by the Carnegie Classification, it has a long history of producing leaders in public service, academics and business. With more than 24,000 students, Ole Miss is the state’s largest university and is ranked among the nation’s fastest-growing institutions. Its 15 academic divisions include a major medical school, nationally recognized schools of accountancy, law and pharmacy, and the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, renowned for a blend of academic rigor, experiential learning and opportunities for community action.

    + Learn More

  • University of South Florida

    A preeminent research university located in the heart of Tampa Bay, the University of South Florida is dedicated to empowering students to maximize their potential for lifelong success. Led by outstanding faculty and professional staff, the University of South Florida conducts innovative scholarship, creative activity and basic and translational research, and delivers a world-class educational experience promoting the success of our talented and diverse undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. As a public metropolitan research university, USF, in partnership with our communities, serves the people of Florida, the nation, and the world by fostering intellectual inquiry and outcomes that positively shape the future – regionally, nationally and globally.

    + Learn More

  • Education Commission of the States

    The Education Commission of the States continues to partner with education policy leaders to address issues by sharing resources and expertise. We are proud to serve both the people who develop and implement education policy and the students who directly benefit from effective policy change

    + Learn More

Case Studies
+ View All Case Studies

  • 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).

    + Full Case Study
  • 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.

    + Full Case Study
  • 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.

    + Full Case Study
  • 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.

    + Full Case Study


+ View all Postsecondary
Scroll Up