Bridge To Hope Logo


Bridge to Hope (BTH) is a nationally recognized, model partnership between the University of Hawai'i and the State Dept. of Human Services (DHS) supporting post-secondary education as a means for welfare recipients to achieve life-long economic self-sufficiency, leaving not only welfare but also poverty.

College Education:

The difference between economic self-sufficiency and poverty. Both national research and our local experiences show the additional earning capacity of a college degree can make the difference between economic self-sufficiency and continued poverty. Bridge to Hope is Hawai'i’s local response to this need.

  • Poverty rate of minority households decreased by one-half after women who were the heads of their households attained just one year of post-secondary education
  • Women with college education were not likely to return to welfare rolls and most likely to escape poverty.
  • In 2000 a woman with a high school degree earned an average of $15,983. In contrast, a woman who earned a 2-year Associate’s Degree earned an average of $23,731 (48% up) and with a Bachelor’s degree, average earnings almost double to $29,848 (85% up)

“First to Work” Encourages Education with Reduced Work Requirement:

Work Required
STANDARD “First to Work”
Bridge to Hope (Full-time Education)
30 hours
20 Hours 12 hrs in class
+ 6 paid employment
$200 exempt wages + 33%
Wages are “Exempt” from deduction

Programmatic Details:

  • Funds are used to provide on-campus student employment opportunities so welfare recipient students can meet their DHS requirements for paid employment.
  • It costs about $2000 to employ a student year-round (BTH students attend summer school).
  • Bridge to Hope is available on all 10 campuses of the University of Hawai'i system.
  • 78% of participants attend a community college where campus work opportunities are limited.
  • All participants are single parents receiving public assistance under TANF (Federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families).
  • Student employed in a variety of positions gaining earnings, job skills & employer references.
Bridge to Hope Positively Impacts Both Education & Families: Students report that BTH:
  • Meets DHS Work Requirements
  • Adds Time For Study
  • Provides More Time With Children
  • Puts Focus On Education
  • Gives Hope For Quality Of Life
  • Improves Self-Esteem

In its first 3 years (6/2000 - 6/2003) Bridge to Hope:

  • Employed 263 students
  • Advocated & supported additional 147 students on waitlist
  • Total impact on 410 students over three years
First to Work Participant
Attending UH
Eligible Students Served
Number Employed with
Waiting List &
Other Placements
FY’03 150
FY’02 = 150
FY’01 = 110
  TOTALS: 410 263 147

Similar TANF Education Program in Maine Reports Increased Earnings:

  • Maine’s “Parents As Scholars” graduates earn median wage of $11.71 vs. $7.15 of other “welfare leavers.”
  • BTH is currently being evaluated by DHS and expects similar results in increased income.
Parents as Scholars Graduates
Working Welfare Leavers Nationally
  • Earn a median wage of $11.71/hour
  • 71.4% use employer-sponsored health
  • 60%-65% receive paid vacation & sick leave
  • Earn a median wage of $7.15/hour
  • 23.2% use employer-sponsored health
  • 33%-50% receive paid vacation & sick leave

Sources: Deprez, Louisa, Sandra Butler, and Rebekah Smith. 2002. Parents as Scholars: Education Works. Prepared for the Alliance for Family Success. Augusta, ME: Alliance for Family Success.
Institute for Women’s Policy Research, “Job Training and Education Fight Poverty.” (Publ#D444) April 2002.

Leaving Welfare Does Not Mean Leaving Poverty:

  • Recent research consistently finds that a majority of “welfare leavers” get jobs but are unable to earn enough money to escape poverty, as their jobs are low paying, unstable and do not offer health insurance and other benefits. (Institute for Women’s Policy Research, 1995).
  • The State of Maine’s TANF Education Program, “Parents as Scholars” reports their college graduates earn a median wage of $11.71 per hour compared to the $7.15 per hour of other “welfare leavers.” (Deprez et al. 2002; Richer et al. 2001)

BTH Milestones: Hawai'i’s model program supports post-secondary education

1996 Federal TANF Policy limits education activities to 12 months. 184 enrolled at UH.
6/2000 Hawai'i DHS implements Education Policy encouraging full-time Post-secondary enrollment
10/2000 1st semester with new policy: 294 FTW participants enrolled at UH; 64 working with BTH.
3/2002 4th semester in place; 463 participants enrolled at UH (57% increase over 10/00); 97 working with BTH (65% increase over 10/00). Funding is maximized with 50+ students on a “wait list.”
6/2003 Completing 3 years, the number of TANF recipients requesting BTH far exceeds funds available.

Bridge to Hope Program History:

Bridge to Hope is a very successful example of cross-campus and university / community collaboration to meet low-income families’ needs for increased education to attain economic self-sufficiency.

  • 1996
    • Implementation of 1996 Personal Responsibility & Work Opportunity Act.
    • Initiates 5 year lifetime limit and work requirements to receive cash assistance.
    • 1996 FTW participants in the University = 184
  • January 1998
    • First meeting of interested parties who eventually develop Bridge to Hope. Includes: welfare recipient students, social work advocates, women’s center staff, UHCSWomen, welfare employment rights coalition.
    • Identify that FTW recipients are limited to 1 year of post-secondary education & 12 credits count as 12 hours towards fulfilling 32-hour weekly work requirement of all FTW recipients.
  • July 1998
    • First meeting between UH and DHS officials to discuss mutual concerns regarding work requirements and educational opportunities. UH officials (VP Student Affairs Doris Ching & SEED Director Amy Agbayani) and DHS (Director Susan Chandler & Deputy Gary Kemp) offer support for changes.
    • UH Commission on Status of Women undertakes welfare reform and the need for post-secondary education as a primary service project.
  • Jan- May 1999
    • Initial legislation for Bridge to Hope introduced by Rep. Arakaki & Sen. Chun-Oakland is unsuccessful. Coalition of community groups concerned with welfare issues and education coalesces.
  • Jan-May 2000
    • Lobby for pilot funding of BTH to assist students to meet DHS work requirements with on-campus employment.
    • DHS amends FTW Educational Policy reducing work requirements for fulltime students to 20 hours per week. (vs. 32 hours previously required).
    • Act 276 funds Bridge to Hope.
  • July 2000-01
    • Bridge to Hope initiated
    • Oct 2000 FTW participants in the University = 294
    • BTH identifies 100 eligible students, employs 60
    • Lobby for continued funding of BTH based on student success.
  • July 2001-02
    • Funded $150K for each FY in 2002-03 Biennium.
    • Hires part-time, system-wide coordinator for Program and DHS coordination
    • BTH employs 97 students, while assisting an additional 59 with other student needs.
  • July 2003 –03
    • BTH employs 106 students, while assisting an additional 50 with other student needs. Program budget is used to maximum potential. Additional students cannot be assisted without additional funding.
    • DHS opposes State G-funding of program, insists other funds can be utilized.
  • July 2003-04
    • Funded 300K for FY2003-04 only
    • Currently employing 100 students (recruited through 1/04). Recruitment on-going.
  • July 2004-05
    • 1st year of DHS / UH Memo of Agreement funding BTH with TANF funds
    • Currently employing ~ 100 students.
    • UH agrees to fund TAONF (2-parent families) in BTH with UH funds

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