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May 10, 2010

Post-legislative update

First, let us celebrate this season of commencement and the important student and faculty success that it represents. We know that higher education transforms individuals’ lives and the May 14–16 weekend will bring smiles to all of our faces. Congratulations to all who have made this possible—the faculty, the staff and, of course, the students and their supporters.

We have reached the end of the legislative session and I want to reconnect with you to express my gratitude for your support and your efforts during this critical period. It was inspiring to see the passion and commitment of our University of Hawai‘i students, faculty, staff and supporters who shared their stories about the important role UH plays in Hawai‘i’s future. These stories—particularly the personal stories shared by our students that illustrated how UH changed their lives—made a tremendous difference.

But there are also some clear challenges ahead.

While we faced the prospect of a $110 million reduction in our general fund budget, we fared slightly better. In addition to the $100 million executive budget reduction, we were given another $7.3 million cut for a total reduction of $107.3 million. Our non-general special and revolving funds, which earlier faced a $59 million reduction, were reduced by $4.9 million.

Dealing with the budget reduction won’t be easy. Now more than ever we will need to work together to find further reductions and additional cost-cutting efficiencies. With our strategic plan and goals to guide us, we will need to make difficult budget decisions and do our best to minimize the impact on our students and our instructional programs. We will also look to create innovative partnerships with the private sector that are in line with our goals and our values as Hawai‘i’s sole public university.

In a climate of budget cuts, it is also critical that we continue to invest in our future and target our resources in line with our strategic goals. Investing in a strong public higher education system that produces intellectual capital and an educated workforce and that stimulates the economy—as UH does so effectively—is a wise investment in Hawai‘i’s overall economic future. So I was pleased to see that our state lawmakers allocated more than $150 million in CIP general obligation bond-funded projects in addition to the more than $30 million previously appropriated in the biennium budget.

This bond funding includes $20 million for our Renovate to Innovate initiative, which will help us make much-needed repairs and improvements to our facilities. With an additional $35 million provided through the university’s repairs and maintenance appropriation, we will finally have the resources to upgrade some key buildings on the UH Manoa campus. These critical renovations will put us on a path toward having facilities that reflect our mission as a 21st century university built on excellence. It will generate jobs for Hawai‘i—at a time when people need them most. It will also allow us to better compete for private funding and pursue research that will benefit the community and maximize our federal research and training dollars.

Included in the CIP package is $48 million targeted for UH West O‘ahu. This will help bring to fruition a dream to provide greater access to four-year baccalaureate programs for a key underserved region of our state. This green light from the Legislature moves us closer to achieving this goal. This new campus will allow us to prepare more students, with programs in applied disciplines such as health care administration, early childhood education, culinary arts management, respiratory health care and disaster preparedness and emergency management.

The CIP budget also includes $28 million for a new home for Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikolani College of Hawaiian Language at UH Hilo. This investment reaffirms the university’s commitment to honor and strengthen the study of Hawaiian language, culture and history within the University of Hawai‘i System. It is also a clear reflection of our values and our responsibility.

Our community colleges will also receive $2 million for renovations.

In funding these CIP projects, legislators have shown that they realize that an investment in UH facilities is a sound investment in our overall economic future. We are grateful for their support.

As you know, we must now await the actions of the governor before we are certain of our next fiscal year budget, but we are hopeful that she will be able to provide her support.

With the framework of our budget in place, we will address our immediate economic challenges and, even more important, we will continue planning for our long-term future. We understand the value of the University of Hawai‘i and its importance to the state and our communities. That responsibility will also guide us on our course. We know innovation and discovery are critical to the state’s future, and our recently appointed advisory council will help us capitalize on our strength in research through improved technology transfer and the creation of new industries and jobs. To ensure that Hawai‘i’s residents are prepared to fill these jobs, we will increase the number of graduates who are prepared not only for today’s workforce but also for the work of the future—a future that will demand an educated citizenry capable of leading Hawai‘i forward.

Many of you were instrumental in telling our story at the state Capitol. It will take that same collaboration and cooperation to keep UH moving forward during these difficult times. I am honored to be part of this university community, and I thank you for your work, your commitment and your talents—all of which make UH an integral part of Hawai‘i’s future.

M.R.C. Greenwood, president