Recently I browsed through the definition of hope in New Oxford American Dictionary (provided by Apple in the dictionary app) to double confirm with its usage as I answered a word-choice question and came across this:
in hopes of
with the aim of: I lay on a towel in the park in hopes of getting a tan.
I naturally accepted it without a second thought as it is in a pretty authorized dictionary and it looked alright. However, as I answered OP's question, I could see his/her doubt regarding this definition. So I decided to look it up on the Internet and to my astonishment, I couldn't find much evidence supporting that in hopes of has the meaning "with the aim of". Dictionary.com and Merriam-webster even suggest in hopes of should just be used normally to mean "hoping something", like in the hope of.
desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment: came in hopes of seeing you
Therefore my conclusion is: the definition of in hopes of depends on the context.
But it is not easy to tell just from a sentence though. For example,
John went to MIT in hopes of finding a girlfriend.
It can be interpreted as "John went to MIT, hoping that he could find a girlfriend" or "John went to MIT and his intention was to find a girlfriend". One has to know what kind of person John was or what he did in MIT to decide what in hopes of means in this scenario.
So my question here is:
is it actually "safe" to use the phrase in hopes of to mean with the aim of ?
Do most people consider in hopes of entirely the same as in the hope of in terms of meaning? Will they misinterpret it when it is supposed to mean with the aim of?