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Feb. 1, 2011
Rotary Club of Honolulu.

New Horizons for the University of Hawai‘i and the State

As the state’s sole system of public higher education, the University of Hawai‘i plays a central role in developing and disseminating knowledge and training our workforce to ensure Hawai‘i’s educational and economic success in this rapidly changing global environment.

Our unique, integrated university system of 10 campuses and research and education centers across the state is an extraordinary asset, unlike any other in the nation. It provides us with a distinct advantage to explore and build innovative partnerships to accomplish together what we would not be able to achieve separately.

The best universities inspire collaboration and stimulate innovation both within and outside their institutional boundaries. Our goal is to build on the strengths and opportunities we have in Hawai‘i to make UH the best performing system of higher education in the country.

Now, UH has no doubt faced some challenging times over the past couple of years. Our general fund budget was reduced by $98 million in fiscal year 2010 and $108 million in fiscal year 2011. This is a 23 percent reduction in the university’s general fund budget from 2009 levels. That level of reduction in funding is one of the largest in the nation among public universities.

We have been able to manage these reductions through a variety of means and with no loss of instructional days. And, we have managed these reductions while the university is experiencing its highest enrollment levels ever. Last fall, more than 60,000 students were enrolled at our campuses across the state.

It is obvious that in these economic times, more and more people are turning to higher education. They see the value of investing in their education. I believe that there is no better investment for short term gains and long term benefits for the citizens of Hawai‘i.

To better serve our students, and the state of Hawai‘i, we have focused our efforts on three objectives moving forward.

Our Hawaii Graduation Initiative aims to increase the number of college graduates by 25 percent by the year 2015.

A national report released last year forecasted that by the year 2018, 65 percent of jobs in Hawai‘i will require at least some postsecondary education. UH has joined 23 other states in Complete College America, a collaborative effort to increase the educational attainment of the United States.

The Hawai‘ Graduation Initiative is focused on increasing student participation and completion, particularly for Native Hawaiian Students, low-income students and those from underserved regions. We are doing this through a number of means.

Automatic admission procedures implemented last year allow seamless admission for graduates from any one of our seven community colleges to our three baccalaureate campuses, without applying and without paying an application fee.

Our new 15 to Finish initiative encourages students at our four-year campuses to enroll full-time. Students who take 15 credits will only have to pay for 12 credits. Take 15, pay for 12, finish in 4—that is our new mantra to students and we think it’s a great incentive to push them forward.

We recognize that there are financial barriers to pursuing and completing a degree for many of our students. We have made great strides in helping our students receive the aid for which they are eligible and we have quadrupled our financial aid reserves for Hawaii residents.

As an added incentive for Hawai‘i resident undergraduates, we have reduced tuition rates for the 2011 summer session to encourage students to take summer classes and stay on track to graduate.

You can read more about the innovative efforts we’re taking to help students achieve in our Faces and Places brochure. (Download the PDF.)

We not only want to provide a transformational education for our students, but we want to transform the way the University of Hawai‘i does business here in the state of Hawai‘i.

Our second objective is focused on workforce development and technology innovation. There is a clear need for a changed approach to economic stimulation and innovation in Hawai‘i, and the university is committed to work to improve and diversify Hawai‘i’s pillars of the economy.

The University of Hawai‘i adds money, jobs and talented people to the state economy. UHfaculty generated more than $450 million in outside funding during the 2009–2010 academic year. That’s more than $1 million each day that is helping to create new knowledge, ideas and products, supporting employment for our citizens and fueling the state’s economy.

In a recent article by The Chronicle of Higher Education, UH was one of five universities that received more federal research dollars than 19 Association of American University members. UH has clearly demonstrated the ability to attract competitive research dollars.

This accomplishment is a testament to our dedicated faculty, many of whom are the best in their fields. They are renowned around the world for their expertise and important research work in fields such as astronomy, cancer research, earth and ocean science, nursing and medicine, tropical agriculture, renewable energy and sustainable technologies.

We’ve also provided you all with copies of a special research edition of the university magazine, Malamalama, which will tell you more about our efforts to create new technologies, develop innovative approaches and explore natural answers. (Visit Malamalama online or download the PDF.)

Our goal is to create a 21st-century capacity for workforce development, innovation and technology exchange that is necessary to achieve a high-value economy in Hawai‘i. As you can see, we are already well on our way to doing this, but we know we can do even more.

To help address the need to grow and diversify our economy, I appointed a President’s Advisory Council on Hawai‘i Innovation and Technology Advancement last year. This group of local and national experts from academia and industry are helping us chart a new course to enhance the success and impact of our research programs for Hawaii’s economy.

We recently shared the council’s report of recommendations for the University of Hawai‘i to create an innovation economy for the state. The four recommendations include:

We are seeking public feedback on this draft report and it is posted on our website for review. We will take all feedback into consideration as we work to develop an implementation plan.

Our third objective is critical to the success of our first two. We can’t increase the state’s educational capital or contribute our full potential to an innovation economy if we don’t renew and expand the university’s infrastructure.

Our scientists and researchers, faculty and students, and the state deserve a 21st-century university with excellent facilities. This is the driving force behind Project Renovate to Innovate.

The Legislature provided $20 million in funding for this initiative during the last session, which is a solid start. We are proud to say the return on this investment is quickly being realized. Just last month, we launched construction of a new $7.5-million center at the School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene at Manoa that will serve as a campus hub for health science research and clinical simulation. The center will enhance collaboration with several schools and colleges at Manoa and with the College of Pharmacy at UH Hilo via distance programming.

Investing in campus repairs, maintenance and construction has the added benefit of generating jobs for the state.

You’ll find in the Faces and Places brochure a list of campus renovation and construction projects underway or recently completed across our system, including a new cancer center, a new campus for UH West O‘ahu, a new library for Windward Community College and many more.

The university’s contribution to Hawai‘i’s construction industry via these projects and upcoming repairs and maintenance efforts total $586 million.

As you can see, by increasing the number of educated citizens, annually attracting hundreds of millions of outside dollars for research and training, and creating a strong 21st-century learning environment, UH will ensure that our students are well-equipped, and Hawai‘i is well-positioned, to thrive in this competitive global economy.

The University of Hawai‘i, and the state of Hawai‘i, are well positioned to be a leader nationally and particularly in the Asia Pacific region. We are a premier state and the best to look at a number of issues that reflect the diversity of the Asia Pacific region. That is why it’s so fitting that we will serve as the host for the 2011 APEC Summit. This will be one of the greatest opportunities for our state and our university. We will showcase to the world the power of strategic collaborations and innovation.

The University of Hawai‘i is the state’s public higher education system. We are educating today’s students and tomorrow’s workforce. We can create a new economy and jobs for the future, and we are the catalyst to make this happen.

It will take investment. It will take partnerships with the business community. Now is the time to do what we know we need to do, and I invite you to join us.