Hawaiʻi Graduation Initiative (HGI) is a system-wide strategic initiative that focuses on increasing the number of educated citizens within the state. Specifically, HGI seeks to increase the number of University of Hawaiʻi graduates by 25 percent by the year 2015 (10,500 graduates in FY 2015). HGI’s strategies reflect the University’s commitment to support increased student participation and completion, particularly for students from underserved populations and regions, and to expand workforce development opportunities across the state.

The Hawai‘i Graduation Initiative was formally launched by UH President Greenwood in her February 2010, “State of the University of Hawai‘i System.” This strategic initiative underscores the importance of a highly skilled workforce in maintaining the economic vitality of our state, and our nation as a whole. Hawai‘i was once considered a well-educated state, with each successive generation achieving higher levels of educational attainment. However, in recent years, data has shown that Hawai‘i’s young adults between the ages of 25 and 34 have less education than some older age groups. This trend among young adults is reflected across our nation. By contrast, higher education attainment rates in almost all other developed nations are increasing, with many nations outpacing the U.S.

OECD chart

In an effort to close this attainment gap, private foundations, state governments, and national higher education associations have issued calls for increasing the share of Americans with postsecondary degrees or credentials. In 2007, the Hawaiʻi P-20 Partnerships for Education (Hawaiʻi P-20) established a statewide goal to increase the share of working age adults (25 to 64) with a two- or four-year college degree to 55 percent by the year 2025. The following year, the University of Hawai‘i established its degree production goal of increasing the number of UH graduates by 25 percent by the year 2015.

HGI adopted this degree production goal as its overarching goal. In addition, five other performance measures related to increasing student participation and completion, particularly for students from underserved populations and regions, and expanding workforce development opportunities, are intimately tied to HGI’s strategies. They are listed below.

These six performance measures are part of a larger set of strategic outcomes and performance measures that have been guiding the University’s strategic direction since 2008 and are projected out to 2015. A study called the Second Decade Project helped define the University’s public higher education agenda for the state of Hawaiʻi and the resulting strategic outcomes and performance measures based on that agenda.

For the past five years, UH exceeded or came close to meeting its overall production goals. A closer analysis reveals that the larger growth areas were in one-year or less certificates, graduate degrees, and two-year associate degrees. Four-year baccalaureate degrees also increased, but at a lesser rate than other degrees and certificates.

rate of UH degrees

Four-year baccalaureate degrees also increased, though at a lesser rate than other degrees and certificates. For UH to help “move the needle” on the larger Hawaiʻi P-20 statewide goal of increasing the working age population with a two- or four-year degree, UH needs to focus its efforts on producing more associate and baccalaureate degrees while continuing to establish pathways to success at all levels.

To achieve those goals, HGI’s strategies span the educational pipeline, from getting our K-12 students to prepare for college, to encouraging them to participate in early credit opportunities and enroll in college, to getting undergraduates to persist and graduate, and to preparing them to perform in the workplace. In addition, broad, systemic activities supplement the overall effort. They involve an increased focus on goals and outcomes, a review of policy levers, an emphasis on data use for planning, and the communication of key HGI messages. Partnerships with national associations such as Complete College America, Access to Success, and Educational Delivery Institute provide additional assistance in planning and implementation efforts across the UH System.

The University of Hawaiʻi is the state’s sole public higher education institution and a major contributor toward the educational capital of the state. HGI is committed to closing the educational attainment gap in order to secure a strong future for Hawaiʻi’s citizens.