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Comment on a National Report on College Finance and Performance
by Interim President David McClain

January 19, 2006

Dennis Jones, one of the co-authors of "A New Look at the Institutional Component of Higher Education Finance: A Guide for Evaluating Performance Relative to Financial Resources" and the president of the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, is one of the foremost analysts of higher education in the nation, and we take his work seriously. This study relates to the performance of all higher education institutions in Hawai‘i, public and private, and the analysis is of data describing the status quo in the years 2000 and 2002–2003.

That said, Mr. Jones’s work suggests that performance of state higher education systems varies directly with the preparation of high school students entering those systems, a conclusion with which we would certainly concur. We find that, of those students entering our open-enrollment community college system after graduation from high schools within the State of Hawai‘i Department of Education, more than 80 percent need remediation in math, and between 60 and 80 percent need remediation in reading and writing.

Noting that Alaska and Maine are also in the underperforming group suggests another factor that may be important, but is unexamined in the Jones study—the high fixed costs of providing education at a number of small sites distributed around a state to serve a geographically disperse population. Only 3 of our 10 campuses (Manoa, Leeward and Kapi‘olani) have more than the 5,000 students that are needed to fully realize all the available economies of scale.

Since I began leading this university in mid-2004, I’ve emphasized increasing our productivity for the taxpayers, students and parents who finance our operations. Manoa Vice Chancellor Neal Smatresk’s success last spring in offering 8 percent more classes for students without any increase in funding is an example of the attention I and our chancellors have been giving to this issue.

Read the Star Bulletin article.

Download the NCHEMS report PDF.

Visit NCHEMS Information Center.