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Enrollment at the University of Hawaiʻi’s 10 campuses dropped slightly in fall 2017 to 51,674 total students, a decrease of 1,744 students, or 3.3 percent compared to fall 2016.

UH West Oʻahu is up 4.9 percent to 3,082 students, continuing the trend that began in 2012 when the school moved to its Kapolei campus. UH West Oʻahu was recently recognized as the fastest growing public baccalaureate campus in the nation. Windward Community College enrollment remained unchanged, while the other eight campuses experienced varying declines.

The overall decline was no surprise, as UH continues to graduate more students on time while competing for students with a tight local labor market experiencing extraordinarily low unemployment. University leadership remains committed to reversing the enrollment declines through a proactive enrollment management program informed by statewide data and analysis.

“We need to continue our great work increasing timely graduation of students while building greater successes in our recruitment, retention and transfer programs,” said UH President David Lassner. “There are a number of positives in this fall’s data, but it is just a start.”

Fall 2017 enrollment

  • UH System—51,674 students (-3.3 percent)
  • UH Mānoa—17,612 students(-2.5 percent)
  • UH Hilo—3,539 students (-3.5 percent)
  • UH West Oʻahu—3,082 students (+4.9 percent)

Enrollment successes

The fall 2017 numbers demonstrate a number of successes in enrollment. Along with UH West Oʻahu’s overall enrollment increase, UH Hilo recruited 415 first-time freshmen in fall 2017, up 12.5 percent from last fall.

There are 1,959 first year freshman enrolled at UH Mānoa in fall 2017, just 13 students off last year’s record. UH Mānoa received a record 13,196 applications during the past recruitment year, and its first-year retention rate is up two percent to 78 percent, reversing two years of declines.

The university has also achieved its overall goal of increasing the enrollment of traditionally underrepresented ethnic groups to the proportions of their populations in the state.

  • Native Hawaiian or part Hawaiian—12,036 students (23.3 percent of student body, 21.3 percent of state population)
  • Filipino—7,454 students (14.4 percent of the UH student and state populations)
  • Pacific Islanders—1,245 students (2.4 percent of the student population, 2.1 percent of the state population)

And in focusing on its mission as a public system to provide access to those with the least capability to afford higher education, the UH System and all major units increased the number of first-time freshmen receiving Pell Grants from the federal government.

Graduating more students on time

UH campuses have made great strides over the last decade to improve graduation rates. UH Mānoa improved its four-year graduation rate from 17.5 percent in 2010 to an all-time high of 34 percent in 2017, and awarded 3,347 undergraduate degrees and certificates in spring 2017, just 302 shy of the record 3,649 degrees in spring 2016.

UH Hilo set a record in 2017 with 798 undergraduate degrees awarded, a 37.3 percent increase from 2011. UH West Oʻahu awarded 623 degrees, a 144 percent increase from six years ago, and the seven UH Community Colleges awarded 5,118 degrees and certificates, the third highest ever and a 53.8 percent increase from 2011. Enrollment and degrees awarded in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programs is substantially up from five years ago across the UH Community Colleges.

Economy’s impact on the CCs

Hawaiʻi’s strong labor market and low unemployment is one factor that affected enrollment at community colleges.

“The strong economy has certainly pulled students out of the community colleges,” said Vice Chancellor for Community Colleges John Morton. “We are working to be sure we provide a way for those students to complete their college degrees while working, as well as the many other students who have left college credits but no degree.”

Community college students with financial need are encouraged to contact their campus financial aid offices about the Hawaiʻi Promise Scholarship program that covers the unmet costs of tuition, fees, books and supplies for students with need.

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